Fire rampages through our beautiful Adelaide Hills…

Wine / Friday, December 27th, 2019

What a week…

Who knew, when I posted last week’s blog, that we were in for one of the worst days we’ve faced as a wine region.

Our hearts go out to all those affected by the bushfires that continue to burn throughout the Adelaide Hills. Especially our friends in Cudlee Creek, Lobethal, Woodside, Charleston and all other communities overcome by fire.

We obviously all have a lot of questions.

Even we’re only getting information in dribs and drabs and will no doubt have more for you in the coming weeks. Things are constantly changing as the fires remain uncontrolled. We’ve also got a couple of hot and windy days coming up, which is never a good thing.

We do have a few answers though. 

Read on as I attempt to cover some of the questions we’ve been asked over the last week…


Was Somerled directly affected?

Luckily, Hahndorf wasn’t close enough to the fires to sustain any damage.


We buy many of our grapes from Kim Anderson (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and tempranillo). His property is in Charleston and has been badly damaged. Rob was able to get out to visit him earlier in the week and this is a copy of an email he sent to a friend who asked this very question…


“So, I went up to see Kim and had a short walk around his vineyard.  The news has got a bit of upside – Kim seems reasonably confident that most of his vines will survive, even though there was fire all the way down every mid-row.  I think it’s a credit to Kim that he’s kept the under-vine quite clean, so the trunks didn’t catch fire – just a bit scorched. Lots of leaves were singed, but most of the new canes still look green and healthy.  Quite a lot of vines showed healthy green canopies (lower leaves dried off and grey/brown), and the green leaves didn’t look at all wilting, after nearly 48 hours after the fire went through. 

“So my inexperienced view is that these vines should do OK, and may even ripen a small crop.  One of the problems is that all the irrigation polypipe has been burnt, and the whole lot will have to be replaced.  That could take quite a while, and means the vines are going to be without a drink for probably weeks.

“One bit of good news is that Kim’s house and sheds and equipment weren’t touched, and the 4-5 acres of Tempranillo, although a bit of fire started through, is also fine and hardly affected at all.

“All in all, Kim’s vineyard is not as badly damaged as some in the hills – some photos seem to show that the vines must have all caught fire, trunks and all, and are blackened and charry.

“The next few days will be important in assessing what may come out of this vintage from Kim.  But then we aren’t sure about smoke taint, assuming there is a bit of a crop!!!

“Not all bad news, but a bit of dim light at the end of the tunnel..!”


Here is a video Rob took during his visit…


What’s next for the vineyards which have damaged vines?

Well, that depends a little bit on how badly the vines have been burnt. There is obviously quite a lot of variation between vineyards.

Some vines have just had the underside of the canopy singed, whereas other vineyards have been completely destroyed.

The best-case scenario, in vineyards only minimally damaged, is that some of the fruit will be salvageable for vintage 2020.

On the flipside though, some vineyards will need to start from scratch. And I mean, the very beginning. They’ll need to buy new posts, set up new trellis and irrigations systems and of course, plant new vines. And when it comes to new vines, growers won’t see a crop until year two and it will take between 4 and 5 years to see a decent crop.


Keep an eye on the blog over the next couple of weeks when I’ll delve a bit deeper into the management of fire-damaged vines.


What about smoke taint?

As you may remember from my previous post, the issue of smoke taint is a really tricky one.

Grapes in the Adelaide Hills were at a relatively low-risk stage for the effects of smoke taint. The problem is though, the only reliable test for smoke taint needs to be conducted when the grapes have been ripened, picked and fermented. 

So, basically growers need to make the decision to continue with vintage 2020 or not now. And if they decide to go ahead, then there is a chance (albeit small) that their grapes will essentially be worthless if they have been affected.


How can I help?

There are a number of ways you can support the Adelaide Hills during this tough time.

The first one is a really easy one. Buy Adelaide Hills wine. Especially from the producers listed in this article…

Here’s The Bushfire-Affected Wineries Who Need Your Support

That article also includes details of all the families who have lost homes and how to support them.

The Adelaide Hills Wine region has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the vineyards who have not yet had the chance to start their own fundraising pages.

And you can always donate to the CFS who are doing the most amazing job fighting these fires. Especially at a time of year when they should be at home spending time with their families.

Let’s all raise a glass (of Adelaide Hills wine) to them as we continue through this (solemnly) festive period.


2 Replies to “Fire rampages through our beautiful Adelaide Hills…”

  1. Thanks for all of this… it is an appreciated personal look at some of it. We support you AND those affected wineries.

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