After four devastating months, Australia is still battling wildfires and its wine industry is not exempt.
In response to the damage the sector has been suffering since September, Wine Australia has announced it’s working on an action plan to offer support and advice to winegrowers in the short- and long-term, in collaboration with government bodies, regional wine agencies, Australian Grape & Wine, and the Australian Wine Research Institute.
According to Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark, it could be several weeks before it will be possible to asses the bushfires’ impact in the affected areas: ‘[The] assessment of the impact on vines is complex. It is easy to see when vines are burned but often it takes much longer to establish the damage caused by heat.’
Clark added that in areas of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland some vineyards and wineries had suffered damage that will take years to recover, yet stressed that it’s crucial to keep the effect of the fires in context.
‘Australia is a very large country with wine regions spread across it from the eastern seaboard right across to the west. Most fires have been in heavily forested areas or National Parks,’ explained Clark. ‘While the toll on individuals cannot be underestimated and should not be downplayed, a review of fire maps suggests a maximum of around 1,500 hectares of vineyards fall within the fire affected regions to date. Even if all those vineyards were fire damaged – and they are not – it would only be about 1% of Australia’s total vineyard area.’
Tony Battaglene, Australian Grape & Wine chief executive claimed that responses to the crisis will involve ‘relief for those directly impacted, including those growers who might not be able to sell smoke-affected grapes’, as well as fostering regional tourism by helping bring people back to the regions.
He stressed that the Australian wine industry needs ‘donations to the relief funds, support for our emergency services, and consumers to buy our wine and visit our regions. It is important to note that the fire season is not over and our temporary relief may not last.’