Flooding in southeast Australia set to hit wine production

Flooding continued to hit parts of Australia, with the country’s Bureau of Meteorology warning today (17 November) that ‘major flooding’ was underway in communities across New South Wales, as well as the along a number of rivers in Victoria.

In the wine world, there were fears that the flooding of vineyards in Victoria last month is now repeating itself at some New South Wales wineries after continued spring rains in southeastern Australia.

There were even flash floods on Monday this week in the Barossa Valley, when the North Para River burst its banks. Elsewhere in South Australia, there have been significant flooding of vineyards in the bulk wine region of Riverland.

It is a very changing situation, however. Wine Australia has not yet been able to give reliable figures on the proportion of vineyards in southeast Australia affected by flooding.

The cost to the Australian wine industry could be high, with the possibility of massively reduced yields in some vineyards, although Western Australia and Tasmania have escaped the ravages of the incessant rains that are beating down on other wine states.

One of the hardest hit areas is Rutherglen in Victoria, where the Murray River reached its highest levels this year this week.

With the catchments upstream full, large volumes of water had to be released, flooding the vineyards of the two well-known wineries just down the river – All Saints Estate and Pfeiffer Wines.

All Saints winemaker Nick Brown says his 3.2 hectares (eight acres) of Shiraz vines which were planted in 1920 are sitting in a meter of water and will yield no harvest at all this growing season .

Winemaker Jen Pfeiffer was even more dejected. “We haven’t had access to our vineyards for two weeks now, and I suspect mildew will take its toll,” she said.

“I’m preparing for a scenario where we don’t harvest a single grape this summer, but at least we had a few days to warn that the floods were coming and were able to save infrastructure such as irrigation pumps by raising them higher. high. ground.’

Two wineries in Victoria’s Nagambie Lakes region – Tahbilk and Mitchelton – were not so lucky. They were given little warning that the nearby River Goulburn was about to flood, and Mitchelton’s vast underground cellars were submerged in water, causing 1,400 barrels of wine to float like corks.

A third of Tahbilk’s vines, including the old Shiraz vines planted in 1860, were submerged. Winemaker Alan George predicted his harvest would be down 75%.

“We will have good disease pressure, as will the rest of Victoria and the whole of south-east Australia,” George said.

“There is flooding of vineyards in central New South Wales, from Wagga to Cowra to Mudgee. Many vines will regrow this season, but when this happens the harvest is usually quite low.

The Orange region of New South Wales, which has some of Australia’s tallest vineyards, escaped vineyard flooding but still has major problems, according to Bloodwood winemaker Stephen Doyle.

“It’s very difficult to get machinery into the vineyards because it destroys the soil,” he said.

“We have had 130 days of rain this year and over 1,000 millimeters of rain. It was cold enough to snow here yesterday, and the concern is whether we will be able to fully ripen the fruit, as we are already three weeks behind last year. We will have to do some heavy thinning to have a chance of ripening the fruit, which means very low yields.

Doyle ended on a more positive note: “The vines are growing very well, and although the weather is a disaster for the vineyards and grain crops of eastern Australia, the whole landscape and environment has been recharged. “, did he declare. “There will be lots of new organic material, and the organic life of the vineyards will be healthy for a few years.”

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