climate change

Wildfires leave their mark on the Spanish wine industry

The impact of a vineyard owned by Jesus Soto that was partially scorched by a wildfire near Cebreros in the province of Avila, Spain. Photo credit: Reuters / Borja Suarez

By Anders Lorenzen

The heatwave and wildfires engulfing Spain this year have had a destructive impact on the wine industry.

This year alone, 90,000 hectares of Spain`s wine country, an area slightly bigger than New York City, have been affected. The country is experiencing its worst year for wildfires in a decade.

For Spanish winemaker Jesus Soto these wildfires have been a tragedy. Returning to see his land after a wildfire had swept through, he was left devastated at the sight of acres of charred grapevines.

One of his vineyards is co-owned by the former Spanish national and Manchester City footballer, the midfielder David Silva. The vineyard was gutted by the flames. Soto who owns the wine label SotoManrique estimates that this year he will only manage half of his usual production of 3,000 bottles of the wine ‘Alto de las Estrella.

His winemaking business is the result of years of hard work.  Together with his daughter, Belen Soto Manrique, he has spent more than a decade buying up and revitalising small and ancient vineyards near the region of Cebreros. The region is located in the central province of Avila.  Its geographical latitude of 700-11 metres above sea level is a key component of the character of its wines.  

Total destruction

“A fire is always terrifying because it kills everything around it and the feeling is just awful. The feeling, the smoke, the smell … There’s a sense of total destruction,” Soto told the Reuters news agency.

He is now faced with some challenging and tough decisions in working out how to reinvigorate the vineyard and recover its soil. He worries that the wildfires will have an impact on the quality of wines he can produce this year.

Scientists say that the heatwaves which have touched many regions of Europe over the course of this summer, with more forecast to come, are stark evidence of climate change. 

In addition, they say that the increasingly dense vegetation across the Mediterranean belt is providing more fuel for the fires. Conservationist groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have called upon the Spanish government to shift focus from firefighting to forestry management and prevention.

As many parts of Europe have this summer become a climate impact battleground, people and businesses who depend on the land for their living have become increasingly worried that this is now the new normal to expect. One thing is for sure, climate models only point in one direction, and things we hold dear such as wine are in the line of fire.

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