Australian bushfires – ways to help

Salvation Army emergency food truck feeds those fighting Australia's 2019/20 bushfires

15 January Seriously scary map of the bushfires as of today here. Buy Australian wine and help them out. See also details of wine test matches to be held in March by two Masters of Wine in Cheshire, Yorkshire and London to raise funds.

12 January Many congrats to Gus Gluck, whose online wine auction has just raised a grand total of £30,946 in two days. And huge thanks to all donors and bidders.

10 January Gus Gluck's online wine auction is now live. Get bidding! I also have an answer as to the best way to help those suffering psychological problems as a result of the bushfires. The best course of action is apparently to donate to the Red Cross, whose activities encompass this aspect. See Giles Cooke MW of Alliance Wine's plans added to the end of this article.

8 January Please keep visiting Gus Gluck's online wine auction, and note this Vinteloper dinner being held at Portland restaurant in London on Tuesday 28 January for the Adelaide Hills fire relief fund. (Vinteloper has suffered particularly, as described in Max's report Catastrophic bushfires in Adelaide Hills.)

6 January A few suggestions for wine lovers concerned about those in need.

So many of us are looking on in horror from far away at the current situation in Australia and desperately trying to work out what we can possibly do to help the thousands of people affected by the country’s worst bushfires ever. Presumably in an ideal world we would somehow fly in relief fire services (Purple Pager Gavin Duley reports in our members' forum that Canadian and NZ firefighters are being flown in) – Australian firefighters must be absolutely exhausted already, and the fire season may well be nowhere near its peak. Temperatures are forecast to rise again towards the end of this week. 

Brava Santa Barbara wine producer P!nk, who has pledged half a million dollars to the Australian fire services on this list of websites of the state fire services, which I’m sure would welcome further donations.

Other suggestions from Australians I have been in touch with include making a deliberate effort to buy wines from the Adelaide Hills, the wine region so far most devastated by fire damage. See Max’s recent report, Catastrophic bushfires in the Adelaide Hills, this list of wineries affected and these details of how you can help. Someone familiar with the long-term effects of the 2009 Yarra Valley fires, suggested making a donation to an organisation that specialises in rural mental health. (See 10 January addition above.)

Gus Gluck of Quality Wines in London, who has spent quite a bit of time working in Australia, is organising an online wine auction to raise funds for those affected by the fires. Lots, kindly donated by some big names on the UK wine scene, include a bottle of Wendouree Malbec 1992, one of Henschke Hill of Grace 2013, and a well-stored but low-level bottle of Penfolds Grange 1961 from the cellar of the late Bill Baker of Reid Wines. The auction will take place next weekend starting Friday 10 January but you can see what’s on offer here. More donations very welcome; just contact Money raised will be shared between the Red Cross (see below), WIRES wildlife emergency appeal and the South Australia emergency relief appeal because so many of the wines offered are South Australian.

David Gleave of Liberty Wines has been a major donor to the online auction and sends this report from Alex Sas, a viticultural consultant who works with Wine Australia: ‘I’m not aware of a specific fund to support Hills growers. Donations to the CFS would be good recognition of all the work they have done in South Australia. Note that growers in other regions have lost vineyards – l heard that one of my favourite former growers from Tumbarumba NSW lost her vineyard last week but the house and cellar door are OK. In terms of assistance with the recovery process, I’d lean towards the Red Cross [see the Red Cross's specific bushfire appeal] and Salvos [see the Salvation Army’s specific bushfire appeal, from which the picture above was taken]. 

‘By the way', Sas continued, 'I landed in Canberra tonight where the air quality index is at 3690 (levels above 200 are considered hazardous!). Visibility is less than 100 m. Qantas cancelled flights to Canberra but trusty Virgin still flew (must have different aircraft??). Choking smoke through airport terminal and city. In my opinion, parliament should be recalled immediately so that our federal leaders endure this poison as well. Perhaps it would shake them into action.’

Kate McIntyre MW of Moorooduc Estate on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, also sent Elaine Chukan Brown this list of ways to help that has been circulated in Australia. 

I'm sure if Hazel Murphy were still with us, she would be organising us all into a really well co-ordinated effort.

Giles Cooke MW of Alliance Wine reports: 'Our winery was evacuated on 20 December but thankfully escaped the blaze – some of our growers were not so lucky. The Bowe-Lees-Loveys vineyard, near Woodside, where Suilven Chardonnay comes from, was very badly burned and they also lost all of their equipment. We wanted to do something to support them and the wider community and so from next week and running through til the end of February, Alliance Wine will donate £10 from every case of Thistledown wines sold in the UK. Thistledown are taking pre-orders for a one-off Thistledown, Single Vineyard Nebbiolo 2018 Adelaide Hills made from fruit grown in the Bowe-Lees-Loveys vineyard that was destroyed on 20 December. It will be £80 per six-pack ex VAT for trade customers and £96 for private customers. There are about 40 six-packs available. The wine is excellent and priced to sell quickly so that we can donate the money when it is needed.