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Lightning strikes grape vines in Victoria

Warwick Long, Tuesday April 22, 2014 - 09:05 EST
ABC image
The lightning struck vines standout in the Politini vineyard. - ABC
ABC image
Luis Simian in front of a row of vines struck by lightning. - ABC
ABC image
120 metres of vines in the Politini vineyard were hit by a lightning strike in north east Victoria. - ABC
ABC image
The grapes were rejected by a winery and left to rot after being hit by lightning. - ABC
ABC image
Some vines are dying after being struck by lightning at Cheshunt - ABC

Amongst the rolling hills of grape vines that spread across the upper reaches of Victoria's King Valley, there is one hill that looks different.

At this time of year at Cheshunt, wine grapes have been picked and while the vines are threatening to change colour for Autumn, they are predominantly green.

But shooting across the seemingly endless rows of green vines is a bolt of red.

It is not a different variety, it has not been managed differently. It is just a simple 120-metre row of merlot that has been struck by lightning.

Luis Simian, the head wine maker at Politini Wines, just out of the town of Cheshunt, says the lightning strike came in a storm just a few weeks before harvest.

"My wife was coming up the stairs to our house and it struck pretty much as she was coming into the house and so she got quite scared," he said.

"I was sitting in the office at the time and it looked like there was someone welding behind the printer (outside the window).

"I wouldn't have wanted to be standing too close to these vines. They must have been glowing, the poor things."

Dealing with the storm and the damage it had caused to things like phone lines, computers and even an oven, the winemaker didn't realise what had happened to a row of his precious crop.

It wasn't until a buyer from another winery came to purchase the grapes did he realise something was wrong.

"When the Casella grape liaison officer came up and had a look at our wines to purchase the merlot grapes and he said, 'there is something very wrong with that'."

"Between the two of us, we came to the conclusion that this had to be a lightning strike, just purely on the evidence we have."

Within two weeks, the leaves on the vines were completely red, with the grapes, rejected by the buyer, left to rot.

Now the lightning row remains a standout in the vineyard.

The rotting grapes, covered in bees and European wasps, are all that remains of this season's crop, with the rest long harvested and now on a journey towards a bottle.

It looks like something out of a horror movie, dying vines, covered in deep red leaves, swarming with insects in a scene in complete contrast to the rest of the vineyard.

Mr Simian hopes it is a horror that he doesn't have to relive.

"Once is fine. It is a little bit of a novelty, but it's wearing off very quickly."


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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