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Chilean wineries halt production after quake

Chilean wineries are assessing the damage caused to their stocks and facilities in the wake of the huge earthquake which devastated the South American country at the weekend.

quake.jpgScores of winemakers have brought production to a halt as the clear-up revealed the shocking extent of the damage the 8.8 magnitude quake caused when it struck on Saturday.

Concha y Toro, Chile’s biggest winemaker, has said it is suspending production and logistics operations for at least a week after several of its wineries suffered serious damage in the most impacted area of the country, hundreds of miles south of the capital Santiago.

“The area with the largest impact is in the heartland of wine production,” said Concha y Toro CEO Eduardo Guilisasti in a statement.

“Our company, as well as the rest of the industry, have been heavily impacted by this catastrophe.

“We have already been able to assess serious damage to some of our main wineries which are located in the worst affected areas.

“This includes important loss in wine and production capacity. A more detailed assessment of the exact magnitude of these damages is currently being completed.”

VSPT, Chile’s second largest wine group, has created a Task Force in order to re-establish normal service as soon as possible.

Javier Bitar, CEO of the Wine Group, said that VSPT will invest all resources necessary in order to get production back to normal with minimum disruption to service.

The group has also reinforced its customer service operations in order to keep colleagues around the world continuously informed about the status of shipments.

A statement from the group said: "VSPT wine group is happy to confirm that no-one from the organisation was badly injured during the quake or its aftermath, and that only four people were treated for minor injuries.

"However, the most severely affected cities are located in Maule Valley, Bío-Bío Valley, Curicó and Maipo Valley, all regions in which VSPT has vineyards.

"As a result of this, several of the group’s wineries have suffered damage in terms of wine, tanks, barrels, broken bottles, and in few cases, more complex damage to a couple of buildings and machinery."

Communication between Chile and the rest of the world is still difficult, but some wineries have been able to offer initial appraisals of the damage and losses they sustained in the quake.

Pietro De Martino, general manager at De Martino, said: “Within De Martino fortunately there were no fatal casualties or injuries.

“Nevertheless, our installations have been affected in different levels of severity by the quake, reasons for which we are currently evaluating in depth the productive capacity and our general service over the next few days and weeks, and also our customers’ immediate requirements and needs.

“Once the magnitude of the impact has been quantified in our infrastructure and production, we will be able to put into perspective when we’ll be able to return back to our normal service.”

Miguel Torres, the Spanish wine company with holdings in the Curico Valley, just north of the heavily-hit Maule region, reported major damage to its supplies and facilities.

A statement said: “The losses are significant at the winery: around 300 casks smashed, one stainless steel vat with a capacity of 100,000 litres has been cracked, losing all the wine, thousands of bottles destroyed.

“But luckily the main structure of the buildings has withstood the quake.”

Eduardo Chadwick at Errazuriz told how the earthquake has forced the company to delay the opening of its new winery.

"In the Errazuriz family, team and relatives, we can gladly say that everyone is safe and well," he said. "We most appreciate your numerous calls of support and emails with good wishes.

"There has been damage in some homes and at our wineries in the south. At this stage we are evaluating infrastructure and material losses, with the objective of reestablishing our shipments and prepare ourselves to receive our 2010 harvest. We will issue an operative communication with details during the next few days.
Considering the efforts that we will have to make to get everything back on track at our wineries – and as a measure of solidarity to help our employees and our fellow countrymen out of this tragic situation – we have decided to postpone the opening of our Don Maximiano Icon Winery until 4-7 November 2010."

Agustin Huneeus, whose family owns Veramonte in the Casablanca Valley, estimates that around 100,000 litres of wine were lost when tanks buckled during the quake and close to 500 cases of wine in bottles were destroyed.

Fears are growing over the coming vintage in Chile, with harvest fast approaching and wineries reeling from heavy structural damage and loss of equipment which will have a major impact on wineries’ ability to produce and store wine.

Alan Lodge, 03.03.2010 

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