In scene’s evocative of the 2017 wildfires in Northern California, firefighting units across Spain are waging battle against a historically large inferno in Catalonia. In addition to the communities threatened, the local vineyards (you know them for Cava) are at high risk.
Europe is in the midst of a massive heatwave. France suffered the worst of it (so far) this past week with temperatures breaking 110°F in Gard. Authorities blamed that spell for igniting a dung pile which grew into the Spanish fire.
Regional Interior Minister Miquel Buch said that experts believe the blaze started when “an accumulation of manure in a farm that generated enough heat to explode and generate sparks”.
The blaze is centered near the town of La Torre de l’Espanyol in the Catalonian province of Tarragona. On Saturday, the fire’s size was estimated at about 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) according to the Interior Ministry, but experts warn that the wildfire could more than triple in size.
“We’re facing a serious fire on a scale not seen for 20 years,” Buch, said in a tweet. “It could burn through 20,000 hectares. Let’s be very aware that any carelessness could lead to a catastrophe.”
350 local firefighters were dispatched to fight the fire. Military units as well as aircraft and heavy machinery joined the fight as the week progressed.
Evacuations in the area were ordered midweek. Fortunately, the affected region is sparsely populated and less than 100 people have been forced to leave their homes as of Saturday.
Tarragona’s vineyards are numerous, producing primarily white grapes for Cava. So far, most of the vineyards have escaped the direct effects blaze, but of course, these situations are fluid.
The direct effects of the fires on the grapes will be hard to discern immediately. However risks arise from the extreme heat as well as smoke taint. Smoke taint is essentially a change in flavor that occurs when ash and smoke particles land on the grapevines and are subsequently absorbed by the plants.