Of Droughts and Bushfires

Today, I climbed from the heavans and my meetings with the celtic gods (remember Sucellus?) down to earth again. And a hot earth it is. From The Age (www.theage.com.au) I learned about the progress of the bushfires in Victoria. 950.000 ha of forest have already burnt down, which according to The Age is almost as large as Jamaica (it has a bobsled team). Mt Buller where it burns is only about two hours away from our vineyard in Glenburn.

Some years ago I went skiing with my friend, Timo Meyer, Australian of Swabian origin, and his and our children for a day of racing down the hills. Timo is a vintner and a very sought after winemaker at Gembrook Hill Vineyard (www.gembrookhill.com.au). He is famous for his very fine palate. Timo made our second vintage of Sauvignon Blanc which in the end got us the bronze medal at the Singapore Wine Show. He has also his own vineyard at a very steep slope which is called “Bloody Hill”. His wines can be bought at Yarra Valley Dairy (www.yvd.com.au).

The picture below has been taken by Andrew de la Rue and it shows the fire raging near Mt. Bulller village.

buller_smoke_wideweb__470×2930.jpg

We are suffering under the drought for some years already. Because of the higher altitude of our vineyard loaction in Glenburn, we normally receive sufficient rain. Years ago we enlarged the old dam and built a new 13 megalitre storage. This kept us going. It did not rain much this winter (June to August on the southern hemisphere). I have never seen our big dam as low as in July/August 2006. Margit and I, we are of course a bit scared that some fires might break out in the nearby forests. Many of the fires are deliberatly lit by arsonists, others are ignited by lightning. The temperatures are high at the moment and together with the strong northerly winds, they make firefighting dangerous.

It has been a strange year so far. First, many vineyards were hit by two waves of late frost which destroyed in some places all the fruit at the vines. We at Two Hills were lucky. According to Steve Sadlier our friend, who manages our vineyard, we lost about 20% of the Sauvignon Blanc, 60% of the Pinot and about 40-50% of the Merlot. Some vineyards in the neighbourhood lost up to 60-70 % of their fruit, others lost everything. As a consequence the Victorian wine industry is suffering tremendous damages. Demand for fruit is strong. If we had only more of it. The old agricultural law prevails, that the economic value of a bumper harvest is usually lower then the one of a meager year. The frost damage will have lasting effects. Also the 2008 harvest will be lower because of the frost damage last year. Second, comes the drought and the fires. If Kinglake National Park start to burn, we will be in trouble.

Below some pictures of Two Hills in winter 2006. Isn’t the place beautiful?

Winter on Two Hills 1

Two Hills Vineyard

Winter on Two Hills 2

Winter on Two Hills 3

Sauvignon Blanc in winter

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