Up to 10 Murrumbateman vineyards destroyed by hail, in ‘disaster’ for Canberra wine | The Canberra Times

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Up to 10 Murrumbateman vineyards have been damaged or wiped out by Monday’s severe thunderstorm, local winemaker Ken Helms says. A region grape-growing pioneer and co-founder of Helm Wines said it was the worst damage he had seen to the Canberra district wine region in 50 years. “What we saw last night in 20 minutes would have to be the worst impact of any disaster which we’ve seen in [the last] 50 years,” Mr Helm said. “The number of vineyards that have been completely stripped by hail that we’ve observed this morning, would have to run into around about between 50 and 60 per cent, if not more, of the total crop in Murrumbateman.” He said some smaller vineyards would have lost their entire crop. Mr Helm said it was a triple whammy, with the grape-growing area suffering from the 2020 bushfires and smoke, which had a flow-on effect to 2021 grapes. “And this year now, where some businesses including our own, are facing either zero income for three years, or very little income,” he said. “And there’s not many businesses that can actually continue under these sorts of circumstances. So it is a disaster.” The region suffered from a hailstorm in 2012, but Mr Helm said this latest storm was even more vicious. “When the hail comes through, what it did was it strip the leaves and the fruit off the vines,” he said. “It also can damage the canes on the vines, which is what we prune back to for next year’s crop, 2023. “So we could also be facing an impact for the 2023 vintage not just 2022.” CEO of Four Winds winery, Sarah Collingwood, said her crop had been damaged by the hail. “It came through pretty strongly yesterday and essentially defoliated the vines. So it’s stripped the vine of their leaves,” Ms Collingwood said. “The kids and I were up at the house, and we were watching as their trampoline blew away. The hail was so strong that we couldn’t see the vines, even though they’re only about 10 metres from the house. “It’s quite a bit of damage.” She said smoke taint had damaged her crop in 2020. “To potentially lose the crop twice in three years is really unusual,” she said. Ms Collingwood was optimistic about the future of her business. “The year that we lost the grapes to the smoke taint, it showed us that we could buy grapes from other regions, that people were really happy to try something different,” she said. READ MORE: “Our customers were really understanding that we were making a vermentino and a mataro was opposed to riesling and a shiraz. We’d expect to do the same this year as well.” The winemaker said while it was disappointing to lose this latest crop, 2023 was a “blank slate.” “The good thing about grape growing is that every year we get to start anew,” she said. “Next year will be another year and we’ll have a chance to grow the grapes again and make wine. So every year it feels like we start with a bit of a blank slate, which is nice.” Both winemakers were positive about the future of the winemaking in the region, as many vineyards were left untouched. Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:


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