While floods ravage a Queensland surface area six times that of the UK, the State’s pristine wine growing district has not been spared.
“It took 60 mm overnight for the flood to start. Although the farms and vineyards are well drained, five weeks ago every dam in the Geographic Indication was full” said agricultural consultant Stephen Tancred from Stanthorpe yesterday. The town had another 50mm through the day.
So the need for the soil to take up moisture passed over a month ago, and it’s that sandy decomposed granite with underlying clay type soil throughout the district. Good for Mediterranean type grape varieties like barbera, tempranillo and nero d’avola, but without too much water indulgence.
The district’s water storage Storm King Dam has been full for weeks, and now that is starting to overflow through Stanthorpe town.
“Old style grapegrowers with experience have clean vineyards, while some new entrants have dropped the ball with the management of downy mildew, and some defoliation has taken place. With so much rain there is no farm work, so disease can continue to spread until the sun comes out again. However, the district harvest will be down. It will be late because it’s been so cold and wet. The apple crop is clean but we need sunshine to maintain it now,” adds Tancred.
Five kilometres south of Stanthorpe town yesterday the Broadwater River broke its banks from the run-off.
“Nearby we can hear the roar of the Severn River,” says Ridgemill winemaker and Strange Bird instigator Peter McGlashan. “The vineyards are holding up because veraison is yet to start, and it will be late. The main problem is access to the ground because the soil is sodden, but as this is some of the best draining soil in the State we should not need to wait long.”
The December rainfall total at Ridgemill was 206 mm and January total so far plus the last two days has been 120 mm to date. This pales alongside the 150 mm in an hour during Tuesday’s inland tsunami in Toowoomba or the 250 mm fall thru Wednesday over Wivenhoe dam (the main flood mitigant now threatening the State’s capital with severe water ingress). www.ridgemillestate.com.au
The sudden rain storms have been quite regular for the past month, causing headaches for the damage to vineyards and forced trellis and drainage repairs when attention to canopies and spray regimes would be better spent.
“This happened at about 4pm on 5 January. I hope the driveway will still be there when the water goes. Michael’s drain entrance is under there somewhere. Will start on the ark in the morning, Noah,” says a philosophical winemaker Peter Stark from Boireann at The Summit, north of Stanthorpe. www.boireannwinery.com.au
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