Chile’s wineries report significant quake losses

The impact of the massive earthquake on Chile’s wine industry became more clear today, and it is significant, as are the ripple effects extending well beyond Chile.

Concha y Toro, Chile’s largest producer and exporter with vineyards throughout the wine region, said it had suspended its production for at least a week while it assesses the full extent of the damage. In a statement, it said “our company, as well as the rest of the industry, have been heavily impacted by this catastrophe.” It described serious damage to some of its main wineries and “important loss in wine and production capacity.” It noted that the area in central Chile that felt the biggest impact from the quake “is the heartland of wine production.”

map_Chile Another big wine operation, Miguel Torers Chile, said “material losses are significant” at its winery in the Curico Valley. About 300 oak casks were smashed, thousands of bottles were destroyed and a stainless steel vat with a capacity of 100,000 liters cracked, losing all the wine.  The winery’s president, Miguel Torres Maczassek, was on a business trip to the United States when the quake hit. Melanie McEvoy Quirke, a spokesperson for the winery in New York, told me that some of Torres’s vineyards were even closer to the epicenter than the winery itself and that “as we speak they are getting ready for the harvest.” She had no information yet on vineyard damage.

Worries about the harvest were echoed in a comment to my post below by Tim Britton, an importer of South American wines in Berkeley, California, who said he had two concerns: “One, that not only have some of the vineyards lost stock, not all but many have some significant losses of bottle and vat stock; and two, the harvest is not far off and both equipment and workers will now be in very short supply. The impact of this quake on Chile's wine exports may be felt for many years. The good news from our contacts is that with one exception no wineries incurred loss of life due to the fortunate timing of a Saturday early morning.”

Juliet Rizek, a spokesperson for TGIC Wine Importers in Woodland Hills, California, said two of the wineries it represents, Viña Montes in Colchagua and Viña Santa Ema in the Maipo Valley, suffered some wine loss and structural damage to older buildings. She said the wineries had generators and were keeping the temperatures of the wines under control. In a statement on the company’s Web site, the president and founder, Alex Guarachi, who is Chilean himself, offers a list of relief organizations to which donations can be texted on cell phones.

(Map above used with permission and courtesy of WineWeb.com)

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