Adelaide Hills bushfires

Learnings from the bushfires of 2020

April 7, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

The many learnings from the devastating bushfires of 2020 will be explored at the National Wine Sector Bushfire Conference in May as the industry gathers to consider how to better prepare, respond and recover in the future.

The free event on May 25 is open to growers and winemakers around the country so the industry as a whole can be better prepared, better informed and better equipped to handle the decisions that need to be made before, during and after the almost inevitable circumstances of fire during Australian summers.

“The bushfires that we saw ahead of the 2020 vintage may have impacted less than 1 per cent of the national crop, but its effects were devastating in the regions that were directly impacted,” said Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark.

“Fire is part of the Australian landscape but what we saw last year was different due to the timing and duration of smoke exposure that regions had. This challenged our knowledge of smoke impacts and led to several new research projects that will present findings at the conference in May.”

The conference will feature a wide range of in-depth presentations, research updates, practical bushfire preparedness, and best practice techniques for smoke effects and recovery from fire. The comprehensive program features leading researchers, grape and wine sector professionals, wine tastings from research trials, and a presentation by the former Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, Shane Fitzsimmons.

Preparation, response and recovery are key themes throughout the conference, with producers from South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria sharing their experiences, learnings and the things that they will be doing differently moving forward.

One of the producers to be featured is Nova Vita Wines’ Mark Kozned who estimated that 24 of 32 hectares of his Kenton Valley vineyard was burnt by the Cuddlee Creek fire in December 2019.

“In terms of things I am doing differently around fire now – it’s being prepared. And I’m not talking about being prepared the night before, I’m talking about planning at the beginning of the fire season and having things in place and tested. Things that you can’t do the night before or on the day of the fire,” Kozned said.

He said that while the impact of the fire was costly, appropriate management practices in the vineyard and winery helped at vintage.

“Through good vineyard practices post the Cuddlee Creek fire and through good winemaking practices, we were able to produce some good quality wine in 2020. We were able to save part of our brand,” he said.

The National Wine Sector Bushfire Conference will be held on 25 May 2021 at six locations around Australia. For more information and to register, visit here.

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