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By Nathan Gogoll

Somebody recently asked me when I was going to write an article that would turn the wine industry around. Sheesh, talk about pressure.

I’m no orphan when it comes to wishing there was a silver bullet solution, but I think we all understand it’s going to take a lot more hard and smart work, as well as bucket loads of patience, to improve profitability for grapegrowers and wineries.silver bulletBut it brings me to a question… should I put all my efforts into providing you with information, or should I be looking to offer more inspiration? The best answer I’ve got is to strive for a mixture of both. Because information can be inspirational, while inspirational stories can also provide plenty of information.

So that will be my theme for our coverage in 2015 – to inform and inspire the industry. It might sound high and mighty, but it just means I need to keep identifying problems and offering potential solutions.

So I’ve got my challenges for 2015. The industry has plenty to face as well. But sometimes, because we’re involved in agriculture there are things that pop up you just can’t do anything about.

Across the past couple of months we’ve watched nervously as a number of fires burned across Victoria and South Australia. The first of the SA fires in mid-December worried me, because it came very close to some of the most valuable vineyards in Australia – Henschke’s Hill of Grace and Mt Edelstone.

Prue and Stephen Henschke, together with their family and staff, dedicate lots of time and plenty of resources to getting the best out of these old gem vineyards (literally gems – Edelstone is a translation from the German ‘edelstein’, meaning gemstone). So to think Shiraz, dating back as far as the 1860s, could have been lost to a fire on day when the temperature only reached the low 20s, was a worry.

Stephen Henschke, spoke to ABC Adelaide’s breakfast program the morning after the fire and explained “a pretty scary day”.

“It was one of these situations where it was a fire ban day but it was relatively cool, very windy and very gusty. When this fire started it was very close to our Mt Edelstone vineyard, probably less than a kilometre away and near the Hutton Vale property, it just took off like a rocket.

“Within half an hour it had burnt past our winery.

“Fortunately Hill of Grace was over the other side of a hill, probably two or three kilometres away from the fire.

“Thankfully we had the fire bombers out quite quickly, the CFS crews came in from everywhere and all the local farmers were there with their ute packs and things. And they all did an almighty job.

“We’re somewhat shaken and stirred, but we survived.”

A good pinch of luck, right there. And survival. Good news.

Sadly, not everybody was this lucky when more fires broke out in the Adelaide Hills on Friday 2 January. Paul Clark, Kersbrook Hill Wines managing director, told the ABC he watched the fire burn his property.

He said the winery, with all the winemaking equipment was spared, but the vineyards weren’t as fortunate.

“I would say about 50 per cent [of the vines] would be lost for this year, but it may be the whole lot.”

In one vineyard, Clark said what remains looked like a scene from a sci-fi movie.

“It reminded me of one of those old movies where aliens vaporise things. That’s what it looks like, no ash, nothing, it’s just gone.”

Clark said it was remarkable the winery, all the equipment, the cellar door, and the wine stock were spared.

“We have wine in barrels that’s ready to bottle. And there’s stock that is bottled. If that were to have burnt, it would take four or five years to replace it, with nothing to sell in the meantime. It probably would have meant the end of the business.”

Clark said he was grateful for the CFS volunteers.

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