The recent Queensland floods and the flooding by the Brisbane River has caused monumental loss to both personal and business cellars in the River City.

Reports are now coming out that one Milton-based storage facility which went totally under was storing wine worth USD 20 million.

The other puzzling information to hand was that the operator made little effort to move the contract cellar stock to dry ground.

News of such losses emerge when owners are debating how to recover from this muddy dunking. They really question whether the wine is potable while assessing the contamination risk after the floodwaters are known to have high E. coli levels for this developed country.

On the face of it cork loses out. Wines closed with cork which in itself is a highly variable commodity, and terribly unreliable, can be deemed to have taken in water (and bacteria) and would not be a very enjoyable drink.

The older the wine, the more likely the water ingress given that cork has a bad habit of crumbling or going soft with time. One in 10 old bottles that I open would ever stand the test of holding together.

That being said, if the wine in question is Penfolds Grange (and one former Penfolds employee who owned 200 cartons of many vintages of this great red lost all in the Milton submersion), one would tend to overlook the contamination issue and try it.

Of the corks which are questionable closing Bordeaux and Burgundy after the flood, one category which should not have succumbed will be Champagne – due to the internal pressure preventing any liquid ingress.

Then the above discussion is predicated on the assumption that the bottle, label and all, has been sanitised with a solution to kill the hazardous bacteria on surfaces and more likely wedged under capsules and the cork-glass interfaces. This will be some cleaning procedure.

Although I could give a tutorial on flooded wine bottle sanitation, that is best kept until another time.

Wines under screw caps are expected to be fine provided they are sanitised before drinking, as they are totally sealed down to bacteria level.

Just another advantage of the Australian use of screw cap; the only pity is that 80 percent of super-premium red wines remain under cork. But Moss Wood and Cullen cabernets for example, now USD 100, are reliably closed under screw.

Most Brisbane restaurants along the Boardwalk and Eagle Pier in this fair city suffered some water damage; and as a usual practice, wine was stored at lower levels – the ones which get wet first.

Liquor hygiene laws prevent restaurants from selling ex-flood wine in principle, however provided the customer is warned of the wines’ origins, there is an opening for restaurateurs to move it out at a discount. Many will, after a big washing job to clean down bottles.

Unlike the 1974 flood where the main integrity issue was loss of label (the days of gummed labels have gone), this time around the identity is quite plain given the strength of self-adhesive materials used in today’s label products.

However, wines of the ’70s and older will have lost labels if they went under!

Writer Tyson Stelzer took some technical advice on the consumption of wine after flood inundation and that can be found here:


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