Quake strikes at Chiles wine heartlands

Quake strikes at Chile's wine heartlands

Heavy damage to wineries and vineyards caused by one of the worst earthquakes in Chile's recent history has forced Vina Concha y Toro to suspend wine production and logistics operations.

Chile's wine heartlands, including Bío Bío, Cauquenes, Curicó and parts of Maule, have been worst hit by earthquake, both Concha y Toro and trade body Wines of Chile have said. 

Hundreds have died and many more are homeless after the quake, which measured 8.8 on the richter scale, and subsequent tsunami off Chile's Pacific coast.

Damage to wineries, as well as collapsed roads and infrastructure, has forced Concha y Toro to suspend production and logistics operations for at least one week, the company said last night (1 March).

"Our company, as well as the rest of the industry, have been heavily impacted by this catastrophe," said Concha y Toro.

"This includes important loss in wine and production capacity," said the group, which produces the Casillero del Diablo brand and is Chile's largest wine firm.

"A more detailed assessment of the exact magnitude of these damages is currently being completed," it added, calling its suspension of production "unprecedented". No employees are known to have been killed, the group said.

Chile's Government has declared a state of emergency in the wine areas of Bio-Bio and Maule.

Trade body Wines of Chile is still gathering damage reports.

"I have had contact with a number of friends in Chile who report that there is significant damage in the southern wine areas closest to the epicentre, notably Bío Bío, Cauquenes, and other parts of Maule, and Curicó," said the UK director for Wines of Chile, Michael Cox. 

"Even wineries as far north as Colchagua have been affected, with structural damage, road collapses, and power and communication problems," he said.

Rene Merino, global president for Wines of Chile, said: "Despite the seriousness of the recent events, the Chilean wine industry stands united and confident in our ability to deal with the challenges that this unfortunate natural disaster has presented us."

Wines of Chile is appealing for donations to the Earthquake Appeal Fund, set up by the Chilean Embassy in London, UK. For more information, contact Wines of Chile UK at info@winesofchile.org.uk.

Last week, Concha y Toro reported a fall in operating profits as consumers traded down to cheaper wines in key export markets.