After a week that saw a wildfire of disastrous magnitude ravage the Simonsberg wine ward, Muratie Wine Estate is coming to terms with its impact on the farm, and turning their focus to the impending harvest.
The wildfire started on Tuesday morning (19 January) and reached its frightening pinnacle on Muratie last Friday. Volunteers and firefighting teams battled the blaze day and night during this time, with resources stretched to the limit due to the sheer scope of the fire which destroyed approximately 3 000 hectares across the mountain, including natural vegetation, animal life, buildings and vineyards. Firefighters’ work was made particularly difficult by a persistent strong wind and the dangerous, steep terrain of the area in which the wildfire raged.
Fortunately, at Muratie, damage to the vineyards was limited to only a few vineyard blocks, and all property could be saved. “The outpouring of support we have received has been overwhelming,” says Muratie co-proprietor Rijk Melck. “From lending their help in the form of manpower, firefighting equipment, food and drink supplies for the firefighters, or simply messages of encouragement, our neighbours and the greater winelands community have been phenomenal in their support. While speculation regarding its cause remains, it is clear that this fire has brought us closer together as a winemaking community.”
“We have to extend our gratitude to the incident command centre run by Danie Wilds from the Cape Winelands Fire Services, the Winelands Fire Protection Association under Dale Nortje, Working on Fire, Vulcan Fire Management, Langverwacht Landscaping lead by Pieter Colyn, Volunteer Wildfire Services, Stem in die Bos and the Paardeberg Vondeling team. Without their excellent coordination and implementation we would have been at a huge loss. Thank you also to Shoprite and Pick n Pay for their help. Finally to all the friends of Muratie, our neighbouring farms and the greater Stellenbosch community – there are too many people to thank individually, but you know who you are and we are eternally grateful for your support.”
The fire coincided with the start of the annual wine harvest, and harvesting activities inevitably had to be postponed as all farm personnel rallied behind the firefighting activities. With harvesting now getting back into full swing, the cellar team is doing everything possible to mitigate the effects of the fire and smoke on the grapes. Apart from the fire, this year’s harvest already poses serious challenges, with much smaller yields projected due to the dry and hot conditions of the past year. According to Rijk, there is no need for despair though. “Like the saying goes, out of adversity comes opportunity. And we are inspired and determined to make 2016 a great vintage at Muratie. If there’s one thing this horrific fire has taught us, it is that we are truly resilient as wine producers.”