300 hectares of old vines lost in Chile fires
The devastating fires that swept over southern Chile in early February have left 300 hectares of vineyards in cinders, according to official figures released last week.
The fires, which have affected over 450,000 hectares of land since 2 February, are still active; therefore the figures released by Chile’s Ministry of Agriculture are liable to future revision.
According to the Ministry, the majority of the vineyard damage to date has been in the region of Ñuble, better known as the wine region of Itata, with 291 hectares of vineyards lost. Neighbouring Bio Bio and Maule have also registered losses of 15 hectares and 3 hectares respectively.
The majority of those impacted are small, independent growers with old vines — which in some cases are over 100 years old. “Itata is crying today,” says Miguel Molina, third generation vigneron of TresC in Guarilihue, one of the worst impacted regions. “We are in mourning for the loss of our patrimony — vineyards of over 100 years of age that are completely scorched.”
Some of the small producers affected are fundraising to help recover some of their losses — a list of which is published on southamericawineguide.com — although not all of them have means to receive international funds.
Wines of Chile has also created a fund on GoFundMe.com , which will be split between affected families.
The fires have affected many other fruit growers in the regions — with over 6,800 producers in Itata, Bio Bio, Maule and Araucanía being impacted so far, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
As well as the damage to southern Chile’s wine industry, the fires claimed the lives of 25 people and over 16,800 animals. More than 40 people have so far been arrested in connection with the fires.
Amanda Barnes is the drinks business’ regular South America correspondent and author of The South America Wine Guide.