Swan Valley: rain and flooding sours bumper grape crop

Flooding at Upper Reach winery. Picture: David Baylis
Flooding at Upper Reach winery. Picture: David Baylis

LAST week Upper Reach Winery was preparing for its best vintage in more than two decades, but now the winery is cleaning up after a flood wiped out more than a hectare of grapes.

The winery lost most of its shiraz grapes after the Swan River burst its banks following record-breaking rains across WA.

Upper Reach owner Laura Pearse said typically most of the grapes would have been picked by now, but because of milder conditions this year the grapes had taken longer to ripen.

She said now the winery had lost its “flagship wine” for this year’s vintage.

“It’s quite devastating, especially since it was turning out to be such a great season,” she said.

“The saddest part is when we look back at 2017 in the future, we won’t have a 2017 vintage for shiraz.”

Ms Pearse said before the flooding, the vintage was turning out to be “a once in 20 years kind of vintage”.

She said now the only thing they could do was wait for the water to go down and assess the damage.

“We just have to wait and see,” she said.

“Year 2000 was the last time it flooded like this, but I don’t think it was this bad.”

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Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association president John Griffiths said the Swan Valley wine region had been significantly affected by the rain.

“A few wineries have been severely affected by flooding, but after 140mm of rain it certainly has put all wineries in the Swan Valley under a lot of pressure, setting back ripening, splitting grapes and causing disease, so lots of fruit will be lost,” he said.

“It’s going to be a hard economic blow for the wineries impacted and may mean a tough year ahead.”

Mr Griffiths said despite a lot of damage being done, most wineries would have already picked some of their fruit.

“Some fruit was picked before the rain and some of the late harvest varieties that weren’t damaged will probably benefit from the rainfall,” he said.