Toxic smoke from forest fires sweeping across the wine-growing regions in the southeast of the country has destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in grapes and halted parts of the industry.
The bushfire season in Australia has been one of the worst in history and has destroyed more than 13 million hectares of land in New South Wales and the ACT, including 19 vineyards in the Tumbarumba region in the south of the state.
A third of the vineyards in Adelaide Hills in South Australia were also destroyed, affecting 60 winemakers and growers.
Before and after: Eighty-five percent of the crop at Courabyra Wines was declared unusable
Cathy and Brian Gairn of Courabyra Wines in southwestern NSW lost 15 percent of their grapes when fire tore through the region in mid-January.
Eighty-five percent of their harvest was declared unusable after prolonged exposure to smoke.
Cathy Gairn planted the Courabyra Wines vineyard with her husband Brian in 1992
‘We lost 100 percent of our remaining harvest due to smoking. “We can’t make wine this year,” Gairn told Daily Mail Australia.
“The crop that we lost was worth $ 200,000, but then there will probably be $ 30,000 loss on wine production the following year.
“The direct financial impact after that is difficult to calculate – it takes about five years for the loss to really affect us.”
Mrs Gairn could not say whether the financial impact would be sufficient to force the 28-year-old vineyard to close, but she remains hopeful.
‘When you realize the destruction caused by the fires in all wine regions, you are in shock.
“There is constant support and the army was called in to help with the cleaning work, but we won’t know the real impact in a few years.”
“There is constant support and the army was called in to help with the cleaning work, but we won’t know the real impact in a few years,” Cathy said
While the existing wines were kept in the cellars of Obsession Wines in the Tumbarumba region, the company cannot harvest for five years.
‘Forest fires have destroyed the Tumbarumba wine region. Our property has been hit hard, “they wrote on their website.
‘Our vineyards have been destroyed and need to be replanted. Do not expect a harvest for five years. No 2020 vintage. We also have no 2019 vintage due to hail storm damage in January 2019. “
“Most of our vineyard equipment has been destroyed by the fires.”
On Friday, December 20, the Cudlee Creek bushfire swept through our property and destroyed 21 years at Tillbrook Estate in Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Tilbrook Estate Wines was also lost in a fire.
“We have lost our livelihood, we have no wine or grapes, so we have no income,” read their website.
They have one fundraiser page to save the vineyard.
Tim Kirk of Clonakilla Wines in Canberra told the ABC that the effects of the smoke are devastating.
“We’ve had forest fires before, but this was something else. The fires all around us, we just seemed to handle all the smoke and it stayed for weeks and weeks.
“What happens is that it is on the skin of the grapes and is sucked into the grapes as they begin to ripen. As soon as you crush the grapes and start fermenting, those smoke compounds are released into the wine. “
The Tilbrook Estate website said: “We have lost our livelihood, we have no wine or grapes so we have no income.”
Mr. Kirk said that more than 100 tons of grapes on his property will be lost.
On Saturday, the company said they would not make wines this year.
NSW Wine Industry Association executive officer Angus Barnes said that although fires burned only a very small percentage of vineyards in the state, a significant portion was destroyed by smoke damage.
‘Growers have their grapes tested and tested by the Australian Wine Research Institute and they come back with many smoke connections in the grapes.
“Winemakers must use that information to decide what they want to do with their grapes, but a basic red made with smoke-affected grapes tastes like it has been filtered through an ashtray.”
Vineyards in the Hunter, Port Macquarie, Mudgee, Orange, Cowra and Shoalhaven areas were badly hit by smoke.
Vineyards in the Hunter Region, Port Macquarie, Mudgee, Orange, Cowra and the Shoalhaven area were badly hit by smoke. On the photo: the destroyed vineyards at Courabyra Wines
Barnes said that winemakers should get grapes from the Riverina in southwestern New South Wales, but that the survival of growers is a concern.
‘They will miss out on at least 12 months of sales.
“Hopefully they can overcome that and next year there will be a fruitful season.”
NSW makes a third of Australia’s wine.
On 6 January Canberra’s air quality was the worst of any major city in the world, after the wind was transported in smoke by forest fires in NSW.
The bushfire season in Australia has been one of the worst in history, with 27 people, more than a billion animals killed and more than 2,100 homes destroyed.
Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra have been covered with thick smoke for months since the bushfire season began in October last year.