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Tips on how to keep wine safe in an earthquake

It’s a terrifying thought having all your precious wine destroyed in a flash but it does happen and there are measures you can take to protect your cherished hoard.

Damaged sustained at Bouchaine Vineyards in the Napa, tweeted by Juan Carlos Guerrero

By now you’ve probably seen the photos of the aftermath of Sundays earthquake on the wineries of the Napa Valley.

The piles of smashed barrels, mountains of broken bottles and rivers of wine flowing into the gutter are the stuff nightmares are made of.

While not much can be done against a quake registering 6.1 on the Richter Scale there are some precautions you can take to keep your wines safe during minor trembles, reported the LA Times.

Scroll through for tips from industry professionals who’ve experienced the pain themselves…

The Restaurater: Piero Selvaggio

Piero Selvaggio learnt a tough lesson in 1994.

In LA’s Northridge earthquake of 1994 restaurater Piero Selvaggio lost 34,000 bottles at Valentino in Santa Monica.

“We’re talking a million dollar’s worth,” he said.

“Once you go through an experience like that you wise up.”

Here’s what he learnt from the experience:

  • Store wine in wooden boxes, at most two stacks high.
  • If you have racks, keep them low to the ground.
  • Put them behind wire mesh or thick glass.

And finally Selvaggio suggested you take photos of all your wine labels and keep receipts, it will make dealing with the insurance companies much easier.

The Retailer: Tristen Beamon

Kyle Meyer and Tristan Beamon at Best wines Online have developed a novel way of protecting their wines.

At Best Wines Online in Costa Mesta co-owner Tristen Beamon said one of the best ways to protect high-end stock is to keep the wines in their wooden boxes.

Alternatively, he said you could use their original technique: “In our high end wine room, where we have magnums laying down, we essentially take some fishing line and run it around the bottle.”

“If you have wines in the kind of rack where you’re looking at just the bottle necks, run a line underneath the neck to prevent the bottles slipping out when the earth shakes,” he said.

At Best Wines Online they also lay down everything in store lowering the center of gravity and they never stack more than three boxes high.

The Buyer: Glen Knight

Bill, Jim and Glen Knight don’t store their wines this high as a rule.

Glen Knight, co-owner and buyer at the Wine House also learnt a hard lesson in the 1994 quake.

They no longer stack their bottles six high as they once did and, in the liquor department, they’ve added metal railings or wire to the shelves to prevent bottles toppling out.

“Racks are always the most dangerous,” said Knight.

“The best would be to store wine in wooden Bordeaux boxes or lay-down style boxes where you can just stack them but you’d need a very large space.”

And some clients of the shops wine storage facility have gone as far as to install kitchen cabinets in their wine lockers to stop bottles flying off the shelves should an earthquake hit.

The Collector: Jeff Leve

For Jeff Leve there’s only one way to guarantee your wines.

Jeff Leve, a wine collector who blogs at the Wine Cellar Insider insisted there’s one safeguard which is fundamental: “The first precaution I take and one that everyone needs to take is buying insurance, there are several companies that sell it and Chubb is a very popular one.”

That’s not to say Leve doesn’t take other precautions: “In my cellar, the wines are stacked one or two bottles deep and each of those has a secure place for a bottle, so the bottle itself would have to lift one or two inches to move.”

But he said at that point the wine is not your main concern: “That’s really severe shaking, and at that point the wine isn’t your fear, but the building coming down.”

He also stores wine in their original wooden boxes, stacked up to six feet high: “They’re packed tight enough that they don’t jostle and the ability for those to move is negligible.”

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