Since September 2019, catastrophic and widespread Australian bushfires have raged. Fires are still burning in some regions, while others are giving way to extreme flooding. And while much of the media coverage has understandably focused on the human lives affected, and the animal species now at risk of extinction, the Australian wine industry has also been badly affected.
How are the fires affecting the Australian wine industry?
South Australia’s Adelaide Hills wine region has been particularly badly impacted. It is estimated that a third of all wine producers from this region have been affected in some way.
For example, Vinteloper’s David Bowley has seen his whole business, home and all of his vineyards go up in smoke. This has increased sales of Bowley’s product in the short term, with buyers wanting to help in any way they can. Other producers badly hit include Henschke, which has seen severe damage inflicted on its vineyard in Lenswood.
The other main wine region that has been very badly affected is Hunter Valley in New South Wales. This region makes excellent shiraz and a much-loved and unique style of Semillon.
Smoke taint could be a problem for years to come
And it’s not just the loss of vines that are causing problems for Australia’s winemakers. Smoke taint is also a huge problem, due to the widespread and persistent layer of smoke hovering over the vineyards. This tainted flavour can stick to wines as they age. This is why Tyrell, one of the most popular wine makers in the Hunter Valley region, says it will make 80% less wine this year.
There are many Australian wines that haven’t been affected at all or affected only slightly. It’s definitely worthwhile for wine lovers to head out to Australia and seek out less famous winemakers. There are loads of small producers all over the country that aren’t on UK shelves, but are very much worth trying.
Visitors to Sydney, for example, will find lots of wines they’ve never heard of, but will almost certainly enjoy. For example, the Field Blend Rouge from Tasmania, which has a lovely fresh flavour. Or the lush and decadent Bluebird Botrytis Viognier, from the Rylstone Estate in New South Wales, which is the ideal dessert wine.
Here are 4 Australian wines worth checking out
- Tyrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon 2017
The 2020 vintage may be small, but you should still buy am older Semillon. It’s really fresh, light and has lots of citrussy notes. It’s also quite light on the alcohol at 11%, making it perfect for a lunchtime treat at the weekend.
- Exquisite Clare Valley Riesling
This is also very citrusy, with lots of lime flavours. Fresh, light and delightful with Thai or Japanese food.
- Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir
This sparkling rose is the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day. It’s from a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills that has been hit by the bush fires, but not too badly.
- Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield Shiraz 2018
This is a deep, rich Barossa that’s worth storing for up to six years before cracking open for that special dinner party.