Inferno Sweeps Through Simonsberg Wine Farms


Stellenbosch Fire Department reports that Simonsberg wine farms estate was engulfed in flames that can easily be mistaken for an erupting volcano. The fire that has been burning since Tuesday midday, has spread across 90km from Idas Valley, Simondium, to Paarl threatening other farms on the foothills of the mountain.

Some of the Simonsberg wine farm owners expressed their grief about the ‘expensive’ danger that threatens to sweep their hard work away in the twinkle of an eye.

The owner of Thelema at the top of Helshoogte Pass, Giles Webb said: “At the end of December I thought that this year would be one our best vintages. But that idea has gone up in smoke.”

Webb lamented that the fire had affected about 15 hectares of his farm in different degrees, including blocks of chardonnay vineyards.

“This is not a good situation. This fire will have a big economic cost. All the vineyards against the mountain were affected.”

“We can’t determine yet how many vines we’ve lost. We’ll only know next spring. But even if some survive you don’t want gaps in your vineyards. We’ll have to replant, which costs R200 000 a hectare”.

Van Reenen  said there was no confirmation of what had caused the fire. “At the moment we’re focusing on fighting the fire.” He predicted that the battle would continue for at least the next three days.

Fransie Roux of Tokara wine farm said yesterday: “Our people worked till 5am fighting the fire.” And Mark Lester, also of Tokara wine farm, said: “We’ve never had such consistent wind and heat at this time of the year before.”

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Volunteer Wildlife Services warned the general public yesterday on its website that the consistent hot, dry and windy weather conditions were conducive for the ignition and spread of serious inferno and wildfires.

André Morgenthal of Wines of South Africa said a large portion of Delheim’s forest had burnt. The forest, he said, was the pride and joy of the owner ‘Spatz’ Sperling. Fortunately, Delheim’s forest didn’t lose vineyards, but Zorgvliet, the closest farm to it did.

At least 200 firefighters from different fire fighting organisations were deployed to put out the fire at the Simonsberg wine farms , with farmers and their employees working together to protect their land, crops,buildings and other properties.

The Simonsberg wine farms estate fire is not only a problem of destruction of the vineyards a, but the impact of the smoke may be change the flavour of the wine.

Rustenberg Wines, Uitkyk Wine Estate and Kanonkop Wine Estate were all battling fires. It has not been confirmed yet how many farms were affected by the inferno.

We’ll keep you updated