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Wildfires cause havoc in the California wine region

01 - nov - 17

The California wine region was recently left ravaged by a wildfire that is said to be the worst in recent history. Apart from damage to some vines, the region also lost a lot of property with over 8000 buildings being reduced to ash. 42 people lost their lives too and there was extensive damage to the overall financial health of the wine industry.

While there was a lot of fire damage around, thankfully, a majority of the vines were spared. The grapes remained largely untouched by the flames mainly because close to 75% of the harvest was done before the fire started about three weeks ago.

The vintners are now working overtime to harvest the remaining grapes. Assessments are being made to see if the fruits remaining on the vines have any smoke contamination and if the quality of the wine will be affected.

Experts believe that the overall vintage will not be too affected. However, some varietals like the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are yet to be harvested and since some of the most expensive wines are made from these, there may be an impact on the revenue. The winemakers feel it is still too early to comment on this, but they are concerned nonetheless.

The other area that suffered was tourism. A large amount of the revenue comes in from tourism. And even thought the tasting room are slowly reopening, the tourists are not returning yet. “Reduced tourism also hurts hotels, restaurants, local government and jobs within that sector,” said Rob McMillan, VP of Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division.

The wine region is now looking to join hands and recover from this. Since many employees lost their homes, the wineries are throwing open their own guest houses to offer temporary lodging options to the employees and their families. The authorities are also thinking about bringing in labourers from other states to help with the restoration job.

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