Floods smack Aussie wine region

The Australian wine industry has been bedviled in recent years by drought, brushfires, unseasonable rain, locusts and overabundant grape crops that have helped push down prices.

Add flooding to the list.

Last weekend, the large wine region north of Sydney known as Hunter Valley was hit by its worst flooding in 35 years.

Storms dumped about a foot of rain on New South Wales in the grape-growing region that already ranks as the wettest in the country. Nine people died in the floods.

"We had more than 200mm [8 inches] on Friday night alone," Phil Ryan, McWilliam's winemaker of 30 years, told WineSpectator.com. "I've never seen the rain gauge that full before."

The only upbeat note is, as Ken Bray, chairman of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association viticultural committee, noted, "The vines were in dormancy, with few or no leaves, so there was not a lot of damage."

Among the worst-hit vineyards was De Bortoli's 32-acre plot of Sémillon.

"The entire vineyard was under [4 to 6 feet] of water," site manager Scott Harrington told reporters. "In one section it carved a big rut some 3 or 4 feet deep. That's quite a significant hole."

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