Sneaky bush fire affects Hutton Vale crops

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Bushfires and grass fires will always be a danger to Australian vineyards, and the Eden Valley knows this only too well, having faced serious fire threats both this summer and last. But I had never heard of fire being as sneaky as it was at John and Jan Angas’s Hutton Vale vineyard (tastings) near Angaston before Christmas. 

Fire appears to have hidden in a lightning-struck stump for four months before hot winds brought it back to life, with devastating effect. Says spokesman Howard Duncan: 

“The fire put a fair dint in our crop estimates for 2015. The ignition point appears to have been an old red gum on a neighbour’s property that was struck by lightning back in August. Tuesday’s warm, blustery conditions were enough to ignite the tree and start the fire at around 11am, with strong winds carrying it through many of the vineyards at Hutton Vale Farm. Thanks to efforts of over 150 CFS volunteers, friends and neighbours who rushed to the farm, the fire was contained and no buildings or livestock were lost. However, the vineyards weren’t so fortunate. At first look, it appears half of the 1960s riesling, 30% of the 1990s shiraz and cabernet sauvignon and at least half of the 1960s grenache have been fire damaged. Fortunately the 1960s block of shiraz looks to have escaped relatively unscathed. Whilst we’re confident many of the fire affected vines will rejuvenate in time for the 2016 vintage, some of the old grenache may be permanently lost, with burning embers finding their way into the nooks and crannies of the old vines, and consequently burning them to the ground. Sadly, the fire also destroyed around 55 of the magnificent 500-year-old gum trees that are a striking feature of the landscape at Hutton Vale Farm.” 

The Angas family are descendants of George Fife Angas and his sons who were pioneers of the Barossa and gave their name to Angaston. They’ve farmed Hutton Vale since 1843. 

The Hutton Vale wines had been made at Torbreck, but during 2012 the winemaking was moved, along with wines in barrel, to Teusner. I for one was cheering, as I never much liked the Torbreck-made wines. They were over-ripe and over-alcoholic, sometimes veering into ‘dead fruit’ territory. 

My favourite of the current crop is the 2010 grenache mataro ($75). Yes, it has 15% (declared) alcohol, and yes it’s a trifle porty, and yes it’s expensive, but it’s also a full-frontal, opulent, hedonistic style that works.

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