By Deborah Jackson, editor National Liquor News

Heavy rain and flooding in the Hunter Valley region has held up the beginning of the region's grape harvest for at least a couple of weeks.

Andrew Margan, winemaker and vice president of the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association, told TheShout: "It's still raining so we haven't had much chance to assess the damage but it's certainly going to hold vintage up."

According to Margan, the area has experienced between six and seven inches of rain over the last couple of days. This follows four inches just before Christmas, which slowed the final ripening of fruit.

TheShout understands that the issue lies in the sheer amount of water coming down, with soil normally able to cope quite well with drainage, but if the rain continues a bigger problem of mould could arise.

"It's hard to say what kind of damage we are going to get. A majority of the grapes, certainly all of the reds were probably far enough down the track in their ripening not to be too badly affected, but we had some whites that weren't too far off being ready.

"We had four inches of rain just before Christmas, which set us back, otherwise I was planning on starting (vintage) tomorrow (Thursday), but I think we'll be pushed back at least two weeks now," Margan added.

"We'll certainly know by Monday once we've had a bit of heat and see what happens then."

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a major flood warning for Wollombi Brook at Bulga, with minor to moderate warnings for the Lower Hunter River. The Bureau's forecast for the region is that the rain is expected to ease on Wednesday evening, with showers then likely on Thursday morning and in the afternoon. At present the forecast for Friday is for morning fog and a slight chance of showers and then changing to mostly sunny for Saturday.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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