News October, 4th 2012 by

Grapes of Fire

Photo Courtesy of Paul Wilcockson L.M.P.A

AJ Linn
(Originally published in Spanish in Diario Sur 15 Sept 12)

Talking about the recent forest fires with people who experienced them at close quarters, the overwhelming impression is the sheer panic they experienced as they watched the flames approaching their homes.
A Belgian friend, who only a few months ago lost her husband – a world-renowned economist – lives in one of the highest points of the Coast. She saw the fire spreading up the hill and although no one had told her to evacuate she grabbed her dog, laptop and documentation, and rushed to her car. Panic-stricken she found the garage doors would not open, but eventually she got out and drove to safety with seconds to spare.
There are dozens of stories like this, and it really is amazing more homes were not destroyed and that there were not more victims. The only mortal victim, a German who was evacuated, apparently went back to get his dogs (he lived alone with them), and his and their charred remains were found together. Julio Iglesias’s dog was also burnt alive, since, in the Spanish way of things, it seems that no-one thought to untie it when they rushed for safety.
Not many people are aware that Elviria is the location of the only commercial vineyard in Marbella. The owners’ ambition is to produce an authentic vino de Marbella. There have been wines marketed previously under this label, but none of them were made in this area. Let’s hope the vineyard survived, as a previous attempt to put Marbella on the vinous map also failed. An anis-based liquor, Hierbas de Marbella, was launched in the 1980s, and to be honest differed little from any of the other hundreds of similar distillations available throughout Spain. I have a weathered bottle, and when it finally gives up its last drop I will refill it with some other anis since it makes a good conversation piece, and no-one will notice the difference.
It may seem inappropriate to state that in many ways things could have been worse. Last year’s fires in Western Australia destroyed billions of hectares of bush but no vineyards, although the grapes from many of them could not be used as they had been contaminated by the smoke.
The Victoria fires in 2009 were the worst ever. In one day, the Black Saturday of 7 February, 210 people died, 7,000 were made homeless, and 30 wineries disappeared. 

AJ Linn

Andrew Linn left England 40 years ago to relocate to Spain, having been involved in businesses such as wine shipping and publishing. He currently writes regularly and professionally on wine, food, flamenco, and the Spanish way of life for various publications, and has a regular column in a Spanish newspaper. Andrew is involved in charity work relating to abandoned and mistreated animals.

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