The Australian wine community has responded to the devastating bushfires with “astonishing generosity”, according Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark.
“Sadly, it is not the first nor the last time that Australia has dealt with bushfires,” he said.
“What we have seen in the past and no doubt will again in the future is an astonishing generosity where people have donated grapes and labour to assist their neighbours and friends to recover.”
Wine Australia, Australian Grape & Wine, the Australian Wine Research Institute and viticultural experts, backed by the Federal Government, and state and regional wine agencies, are coordinating a response to the bushfires that will offer support and advice in the short-term and a longer-term action plan.
Mr Clark said it would be several weeks before it would be possible to get a real picture of bushfire impacts in the affected areas.
“In some areas where people have been evacuated it will be some time before it is safe to access vineyards,” he said.
“There is also the fact that 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.”
Mr Clark said in some regions of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland individual vineyards and wineries had suffered “devastating damage” which would take years to recover from and local regions and the sector more broadly would step in to assist.
Mr Clark said it was important to keep the impact 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,” he said.
“Most fires have been in heavily forested areas or National Parks.
“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 one percent of Australia’s total vineyard area.”
Australian Grape & Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said there would be a coordinated response to both short-term relief and longer-term planning.
“Responses must include relief for those directly impacted, including those growers who might not be able to sell smoke-affected grapes,” he said.
“In the medium term we must look to strengthen regional tourism and bring people back to the regions.
“Our message is that Australia is hurting from the fires, but we are open for business. We need 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.”
• Donations can be made to the Australian Red Cross (www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/disaster-relief-and-recovery-donate) or the Adelaide Hills in South Australia (www.adelaidehillswine.com.au/fireappeal). Donations can be made to Queensland’s Granite Belt Drought Assist via Facebook.