Southern Highlands producers fear vintage 2020 could be lost

06 January, 2020 by Deborah Jackson

Image of the smoke cloud lingering over Cherry Tree Hill

Fires burning in the Southern Highlands region of NSW have left towns devastated, homes lost, and the local winemaking community assessing whether they will be able to salvage vintage 2020.

Advertisement

For weeks now, the region has been shrouded in a thick haze of smoke from fires burning further down the south coast of NSW, but over the weekend things got far more serious with the Morton bushfire tearing through the towns of Wingello, Bundanoon and the Kangaroo Valley.

Duncan MacDonald, the Cellar Door Manager at Cherry Tree Hill Wines, which is on the Hume Highway at Sutton Forest, told TheShout that there is a very real concern across the Southern Highlands that although vines across the region have so far been spared from the raging inferno, there is a real chance that the 2020 vintage could be a “write-off” due to smoke taint.

He said: “As we speak, there is a big meeting taking place at Mount Majura winery in Canberra to discuss the possibility of vines both here and in Canberra having smoke taint. Meetings are also taking place in Mudgee and Orange. The 2020 vintage could already be a write-off.”

MacDonald, who lives with his family at the winery, said that he was forced to evacuate at 11.30pm on Saturday night due to the increased fire danger. And while the cellar door has re-opened today, even as TheShout spoke with him he was receiving alerts of new fires that had broken out in the area.

“The thing that’s making living in the Highlands so difficult at the moment is we are basically surrounded by two massive fires, we have the Green Wattle Creek fire burning to the North West of us and the Currowan Fire burning to the South East – so basically no matter which way the wind blows we are screwed,” he said.

“As far as our wine family goes down here, I’m not aware of any vineyards in wineries being damaged thus far, although Joadja Estate would be a serious concern and the threat is present and ongoing.

“I know places like Tertini Wines have been closed and had all surrounding roads closed over the past week and I think are still closed today. Our dear friends at Artemis Wines are also at high risk and I know they have been making preparations to defend their property.

“We closed our cellar door yesterday, but I’m back open today, however, it is very quiet which is not common for this time of year.

“I have just received an alert on my phone telling me there is a new fire 10kms away. This is becoming a regular occurrence and I will now need to monitor it closely and see what happens, hopefully the RFS get it out quick.

“As far as what people can do to help that’s a real hard one. My advice to people is to hold off visiting all the fire effected regions until it’s deemed safe. But then on the flip side, once it is 100 per cent safe, we need people to come visit the region as soon as possible because so much of our region relies on tourism including me here at Cherry Tree Hill.”

On behalf of everyone here at TheShout, our thoughts and prayers are with all of the businesses and residents right around the country that are currently under threat from fire.