December 27, 2019 / 12:41 AM / a month ago

Australian winery owner soothes burnt vines with tears as temperatures soar

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - South Australian winery owner Clare Anderson said she was “crying into her vines” as her fire-ravaged estate was hit by another bout of intense heat on Friday, robbing the vineyard of a chance to recover.

FILE PHOTO: A burnt field is seen at a vineyard in Adelaide Hills, December 21, 2019. in this picture obtained from social media. VINTELOPER/via REUTERS

Anderson said there was little she could do to combat the extreme conditions after fire recently burnt a quarter of the family-owned Anderson Hill vineyard, 30km (20 miles) from the state capital Adelaide.

“They say to talk to house plants, well we’re crying into the vines at the moment,” Anderson said.

“There’s nothing you can do, apart from getting water to them and telling them you love them.”

The vineyard in the Adelaide Hills region, known for its cool climate wines, is one of many vineyards affected by intense bushfires raging across the country.

Anderson said while burnt vines could rejuvenate, the return of the heat threatened their ability to heal.

Temperatures are forecast to again rise above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in parts of South Australia on Friday, marking the start of a new wave of heat in the continent’s south.

Firefighters used cooler conditions over Christmas to strengthen fire containment lines. Light rain in some areas did little to reduce the fire threat.

Large parts of Australia have suffered through several years of drought that has created tinder dry conditions, leaving bushland ready to ignite.

On Australia’s southeast coast, authorities in New South Wales issued a very high danger alert for the state on Friday, with 70 bush and grass fires still burning, half of them uncontained.

The eastern state has experienced some of the worst fires this season, although deteriorating conditions in the country’s south have spread the flames.

There have been eight deaths, including two volunteer firefighters, linked to the blazes since they flared in spring.

In South Australia, the fires have potentially wiped out a third of wine production, or 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres), in the Adelaide Hills wine region alone, the local wine association said.

Over the past week, blazes have torn through the 27-hectare Adelaide Hills vineyards owned by fifth-generation winemaker Stephen Henschke.

Henschke told Reuters he and other winemakers were looking at years of recovery ahead.

“When you walk into the vineyard and see everything just blackened and everything gone, it’s pretty hard to come to terms with,” Henschke said.

Reporting by Will Ziebell in Melbourne; writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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