In the Newsroom

March 4, 2010
Chilean wineries report significant earthquake losses

Map courtesy of WineWeb.com

Worldfocus Consulting Producer Edward Deitch is an MSNBC.com wine columnist who also blogs at Vint-ed, where this post originally appeared.

The impact of the massive earthquake on Chile’s wine industry has become more clear in recent days, and it is significant, though not as bad as some had feared.

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,” noting that the area in central Chile that felt the biggest impact from the quake “is the heartland of wine production.”

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 on my blog from 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. By today, Montes reported that its equipment and bottle lines were operational and that power had returned. It said it would proceed with the harvest as originally planned.

Another company, Arboleda, reported damage to some of its wineries and continues to evaluate its losses and the impact on market availability. It advised customers to plan an extra two weeks of lead time for orders, saying that even if the winery is working, there will likely be a backlog at ports, which will place a priority on perishable goods such as fresh fruits.

- Edward Deitch

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Comments

4 comments

#4

TomVA - come on now. This affects employment of those who survived. Life requires sustenance. Sustenance comes from work. Vineyards produce work. Damanaged vineyards produce less work. Please show some compassion.

#3

Many of us are concerned for Chile and her vineyards for the same reasons stated. Many of us in the California industry (competition aside) are trying to help because we understand the devastating impact if this was to happen here.

#2

Wine is a major export industry in Chile and provides the livelihood for thousands of people. The destruction to these wineries is not just an inconvenience for lovers of inexpensive wine in the U.S. and Europe. It represents a significant obstacle to long term economic recovery in this hard hit country. So yes, some of us are concerned about the vineyards.

#1

Thousands of people dead, injured or homeless and you are concerned about the vineyards?

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