Winemakers escape blaze's fury

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Winemakers are breathing a sigh of relief following last week's bushfires, which caused only minimal damage to vineyards.

The fires scorched 3000 hectares.

McHenry Hohnen, 4km west of Margaret River, was the only commercial vineyard to report fire damage to its crop.

The winery's director David Hohnen said the fire burned about 19ha of his property and 2ha of vineyards.

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"We've had two hectares scorched, so we'll probably lose 10 to 12 tonnes of grapes," he said.

"We usually produce about 80 tonnes of grapes each year."

Mr Hohnen expressed anger at the Department of Environment (DEC) and Conservation's handling of the issue.

"It should not have happened - they shouldn't be burning off in spring," he said. "You can't insure against DEC lighting fires."

Wine Industry Association of WA general manager Aymee Mastaglia said grape growers near burnt areas were not adversely affected by smoke drift.

"The good news is it is a very low risk time of year for grapes at the moment," she said.

Ms Mastalgia said grapes in the region were at too early a stage of maturity to be affected by smoke taint.

"The high risk period is when the bunches have formed and the berries are still ripening," she said. "That is usually from the end of December until April, just before harvest."

About 24,000 tonnes of grapes are crushed in the Margaret River region each year.

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