Reports coming out of Chile today indicate that last Saturday’s massive earthquake dealt a substantial blow to that country’s $1.3 billion wine industry. According to the The Washington Post, Rene Merino, president of Wines of Chile, says early estimates put the loss at $975 million (retail) due to spillage from barrels and storage tanks damaged in the 8.8 magnitude tremor. Not since Prohibition has this much wine been spilled in one day alone.
Much of the damage came when massive storage tanks, stainless steel vats more than 15 feet high, toppled. Violent shaking snapped tank legs bolted to the ground, knocking the vats over and causing a domino effect as tank after tank crashed to the ground. Wine stored in barrels was also lost as the barrels rolled off racks, cracked open or popped the seal, flooding warehouses.
Popularity of Chilean wine has grown rapidly in the United States, where Chile is now the fourth-leading wine exporter, behind Italy, France and Australia. Nearly three-quarters of Chile’s wine production occurs in some of the areas hit hardest by the quake, including Maule, Colchagua and Cachapoal valleys.
Winemakers who have visited the region said the damage extended far beyond finished wine. The quake also caused massive damage to infrastructure ranging from cracked underground irrigation tubing to collapsed warehouses. They said the damage has left major questions about the entire 2010 harvest and exports.
Photos and further account of the story is available in The Washington Post. You can read more about some Chilean wine on Another Wine Blog.
And please visit our friends at Wines of Chile to learn more about helping the wine industry in Chile.