Riversands Vineyard St George-Balonne river flooding

The rainy weather has been around since September, and the Sunny State has not seen mcu of the sun’s rays for three months.

Climate change has its bitter twist.For St George wine and table grape producer David Blacket of Riversands Vineyards his vineyard has been inundated with water from the nearby Balonne River (50 metres away) for over two weeks. His table grape harvest should have been underway since October when he usually enjoys the high early season prices.

But not this year says marketing manager Dana Gluzde ”As the crop was the biggest ever, we felt very confident about the 2010 season at first. However the persistent spring rain in a usually dry climate just kept putting disease pressure on us to the extent that we had to drop a lot of fruit. And with grape vines sitting in water the sugars dilute!”

However the Riversands people soldiered on to attempt to harvest the rest of their crop regardless. That meant working over water than by land to harvest, and as the 1 km roadway was cut off by a 30 km/hr torrent between the vineyard and collection point, a punt was borrowed from local cotton farmers to ferry the cartons of grapes to safe storage.

Riversands are both table grape growers and wine producers. I am reminded of their wonderful 2008 Inland Way Chardonnay which took best chardonnay and best Queensland white wine at last year’s Cairns Wine Show against chardonnays from all Australian wine producing states. It’s delicious but the 2011 vintage will not occur because the current ripening grapes are under 1-1.5 metres of muddy floodwaters.

Unlike the table grapes which are ripe, and harvestable, the Riversands wine grape portion (sauvignon blanc, semillon, chardonnay and shiraz) of the vineyard is under higher water coverage and yet to ripen.

Says Dana “The grapes are un-affected physically but the vines have simply been under water too long. There will be no wine vintage from this vineyard this year. The only straddle will be using our early muscat white grapes on higher ground as multi-purpose white wine grapes to get us through”.

The past 12 months have been a bittersweet battle says owner David Blacket. “While the season initially started well following record March 2010 floods, constant rain and cold weather caused substantial yield losses and delayed harvest. Now the floods! It’s been a hell of a year. It’s been our most challenging year since we bought the vineyard in 1996.”

On top of that the 2010 flood took all Riversands baby vines by waterlogging, and of course with re-planting that has happened again.

Bright weather at Riversands-pity about the water!

“Our biggest challenge ahead is the clean-up. After the water recedes there is the red mud, and the water subsidence looks to be a slow process; 3-4 weeks yet, so we will remain patient. In the meantime, as our wine income is tourist-driven, we will advertise that we remain open for business regardless. ” sighs Dana. The cellar door is a good drive-five hours south west of Brisbane. www.riversandswines.com

Queensland experienced is greatest ever annual rainfall in 2010; an average of 1210 mm eclipsing the long term record established in 1890 when the State was last so heavily saturated. This rainfall was not delivered by the usual climatic patterns-by cyclones with high wind gusts, but by persistent series of upper level rain depressions, often up to three covering the State, and neighbouring States in various alignments. Oh to see the sun, and a day over 30oC; now so rare.

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