Do California Wildfires Spell Disaster for your Favorite Wine?
The California Wildfires Spell Disaster for your Favorite Wine?
The tragic wildfires in Northern California in early October 2017 left chaos in their wake. Entire towns, farms and forests engulfed in flames. As we still search the rubble to quantify the damage, many wine lovers want to know just how much was destroyed — and what that means for the industry.
Did the California Wildfires Destroy Wine Country?
Wine country has been thoroughly shaken by the tragedy in Northern California. Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties were hit hard by the recent wildfires, there is no doubt about that. Over two hundred thousand acres burned in these three counties alone.
50 mph winds spread the fires at breakneck speeds. Over 40 people lost their lives to the flames. Nearly eight thousand structures have been destroyed, and dozens of wineries are reporting damage ranging from complete destruction to property loss. While Wine Country still stands strong, this was a huge hit.
With the fires contained and embering out, Northern California is faced with the real task of tallying up the true extent of the damage. Fire damage to the vines and cellars, as well as smoke taint in the grapes, barrels and bottles themselves. More than the damage to property, they must also face the lack of housing and labor to fix these problems. These were already issues before the fires. Now they are the greatest issue in many ways.
One thing to consider is that the vines themselves do not give much for the wildfires to eat. In many ways, they act like natural fire breaks. The vineyards in many places helped to prevent the fires from spreading to adjacent forests or meet up with other fires. The vast field is just too big a stretch for a raging fire to cross without fuel. And vines, bittersweet to say, do not make for good fuel.
From the Ashes
While the California wildfires this October were no doubt a disaster, it does not spell doom for the wine industry, or any industry for that matter. Initial reports of smoke taint looked grim, but many vineyards are now saying that the effect will be far less than initially reported. For those that remember, a similar fire broke out in 2008, though this was very early in the grape season. The effect on the grapes was extensive, as young grapes are still breathing more and took in a lot of smoke.
The 2017 vintage, on the other hand, is largely safe. As far as the harvest is concerned, the fires occurred late in the season. This is a blessing, as much of the harvest had already been taken in; tucked safely in the tanks before the fire ever hit. The grapes that were left may have been damaged, but the damage is very minimal compared to initial reports. So the 2017 vintage is not at a halt at all. The show must go on!
The issue now is to bounce back from this destruction. Banding together to rebuild; Wine Country will come out of this tragedy strong as ever. We at sommtable.com are with you every step of the way.