Bushfires impacted over 12 million hectares of land along the south-eastern seaboard commencing in Queensland in August 2019. Large tracts of forest and farming land were impacted in north-east Victoria and south-east New South Wales from early January 2020, resulting in prolonged periods of smoke haze across the North-East zone.
No vineyards in the districts were directly impacted by fire, but all were to some degree, by bushfire smoke.
A report to quantify the financial losses incurred by grape and wine producers across North East Victoria was commissioned by The Rural City of Wangaratta with the assistance of the North East Catchment Management Authority. The report was prepared by Mark Walpole and covers the geographic indications of King Valley, Alpine Valleys, Beechworth, Rutherglen and Glenrowan.
The report estimated that the loss of retail sales value to the national economy was in the vicinity of 140 million dollars. The King Valley accounted for over 50% of this estimated loss. Beechworth’s loss was estimated at 19 million dollars.
Number of growers/producers in each region:
King Valley 47
Alpine Valleys 25
Some Beechworth wineries made wine in 2020 and the resulting wines varied in the level of smoke taint they exhibited. Latrobe University, the AWRI and NECMA provided guidance on techniques that could be employed to limit the expression of smoke taint in the finished wines. Haldon Estate made a Chardonnay and a Nebbiolo following the advice and the resulting wines showed very low levels of smoke taint – to the point that the taint would be undetectable by most of the population.