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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tim Atkin MW

Winemakers in northeastern Austria are facing a lengthy and costly clean-up operation after torrential rain hit parts of the country in mid-August. The two worst-hit regions are Kamptal and the Wachau, where Toni Bodenstein of Weingut Prager in Weissenkirchen described the situation as a nightmare'. Other famous names whose cellars are flooded and vineyards affected include FX Pichler, Knoll, Hirtzberger, Alzinger, Mantler and Hirsch. The floods along the Danube were the worst since 1951 and saw the river peak at 10.85 metres, destroying some vineyards in minutes. The equivalent of 250mm of rain per square metre fell on the Wachau in one 36-hour period during the second week of August, equivalent to half the annual rainfall. The disaster has destroyed 20% of this year's crop and affected 80% of the region's producers. Approximately 100 cellars were flooded and 5% of the region's vineyards will have to be replanted. In Kamptal, the village of Zbing (home of the celebrated Zbinger Heiligenstein vineyard) was completely flooded. The clean-up operation has begun, although the extent (and cost) of the damage is not yet known. It's been like a big family pulling together,' Bodenstein told Harpers. We are rebuilding our homes and vineyards as fast as we can.' Readers who want to donate to the disaster fund should send money by bank transfer to: Raiffeisen Holding, Militrkommando, in Austria. Bank account: 45450; sort code: 32.000