Grapes of Wrath: Spanish farmers tell of ‘total destruction’ of vineyards amid forest fires

When Spanish winemaker Jesus Soto returned to his land on Sunday July 17 for the first time since a wildfire swept through the region last week, the sight of his charred vines left him in tears.

He felt like he had “lost a part of my soul”, he told Reuters on Thursday.

Soto, with the help of his daughter Belen, a 24-year-old winemaker, has spent more than a decade buying and revitalizing small old vineyards and farmland near Cebreros in the central province of Avila, including the he altitude of 700-1100 meters above sea level sees it produce unique wines.

“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 feeling of total destruction,” he says .

With one of his vineyards – co-owned by ex-Spanish midfielder and ex-Manchester City ex-Manchester David Silva – engulfed in flames, the owner of wine label SotoManrique believes he will only manage half of his usual production of 3,000 bottles of “Alto de la Estrella”. ” This year.

He must now decide how to replant the vineyard and reclaim his soil, and worries about the potential impact on the quality of the wines he can produce this year.

“Everything that happens during a year in nature ends up affecting the wine,” he explains.

Abandon the Spanish countryside

Firefighters continued Thursday to fight forest fires in several Spanish regions. Authorities said they were making progress in battling the fires, but were grappling with complex conditions. In Cebreros, their efforts were hampered by shifting winds.

Scientists say heat waves that spread across Europe last week and caused Forest fires around the region are stark evidence of climate change.

But, for Soto, the abandonment of Spain’s vast countryside by people moving to its cities is a more pressing issue than climate change.

Scientists say increasingly dense vegetation in the Mediterranean belt is proving more fueling the fires, while charities including the World Wide Fund for Nature and BirdLife met with the Spanish government on Thursday to call for a change in direction of firefighters prevention and forest management.

“We always remember climate change when something happens, but right now here and in many parts of Spain the big problem is the neglect of the countryside,” Soto said.

So far this year, 90,000 hectares have been burned across the country, including 20,000 hectares during last week’s heat wave – an area slightly larger than New York City. Spain is already experiencing the worst year for forest fires in a decade.

Watch the video above to learn more about how the fires are affecting winemaking in Spain.

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