Chilean wineries allowed to operate under Covid-19 lockdown

Chilean wineries have been given dispensation to continue operating and harvesting grapes after a curfew was imposed on the country due to Covid-19 on 22 March.

According to information sourced by Wines of Chile, the country’s wine industry has been able to harvest “under normal conditions” while production facilities are allowed to operate as usual, but with specific healthcare measures in place.

On 18 March, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announced that the country would enter a 90-day ‘National State of Catastrophe’. Four days later, he imposed a nationwide curfew between the hours of 10pm and 5am.

Beginning on 26 March, the government announced a seven-day quarantine in areas around the capital including Santiago Centro, Las Condes, Lo Barnechea, Vitacura, Providencia, Ñuñoa, and Independencia. Residents are only allowed to leave their houses for medical reasons and to access basic services. Total quarantine was placed on Chillán and Osorno for seven days on 30 March.

Agriculture was identified as a “critical sector” for the country and industry workers have been issued with special permits that give them the right to move around Chile and attend their workplace. There is currently no governmental restrictions on ports in Chile.

Speaking to the drinks business in the middle of last month, Diego Rivera, winemaker of Garcés Silva, which is based in the Leyda Valley, said that thankfully the harvest had been “very early” meaning that he only had 8% of the vintage left to pick.

“I hope we finish soon with the ferments so we can stay home until the worst is over,” he said.

It was a similar situation for Miguel Torres Chile, which was founded in Curicó but now has vineyards across the country. Winemaker Eduardo Jordan told db that optimal ripeness had come between 10 days to almost a month earlier than the previous vintage. There was also 76% less rainfall in Curicó during the growing season, with spring frosts and a hot summer, meaning that he was having to “run around picking a lot of grapes now”.

The latest figures from Wines of Chile show that 75% of grapes have already been collected.

Eduardo Alemparte

Head of viniviticulture at Santa Rita Estates, Eduardo Alemparte, said that the estate had completed 55% of its harvest.

“It is a very early season with some varieties being picked up to one month earlier than the historical harvest dates,” he said, echoing the sentiments of Rivera and Jordan.

“The yields are about 15% less than last year which is mainly as a result of two frosts in Casablanca and Colchagua and the lack of rainfall during the winter period.

“Berry sizes are smaller this year as a consequence of a lack of wáter. The harvest is early as a result of one of the hottest summers recorded.

“We expect to finish the harvest by mid -April but this may change depending on the coronavirus situation. So far the quality is good and all the grapes for the icon wines have been harvested.”

Ricardo Baettig, enological director of Morandé, which has vineyards in Casablanca and Maule, said that the vintage had been “warm and dry” with temperatures over 28°C enabling grapes to be collected quickly.

“We are working like monkeys and are fortunately picking early and hoping we can finish before things become serious,” he told db on 16 March.

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