Wild fires rip through Chilean wine regions Itata and Bio Bio
Wildfires in Chile’s south are beginning to impact vineyards in the wine regions of Itata and Bio Bio. Since late on Wednesday 1st February wild fires have spread rapidly through the regions in southern Chile, exacerbated by hot and windy weather. Over the weekend it has been calculated the fires have spread to over 100,000 hectares and have impacted several vineyards and wineries.
The region of Itata in Ñuble is worst affected at the moment with several uncontrollable fires spreading rapidly, which has already resulting in the death of 22 people and over 3,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
Producers already reporting vineyard damage include A los Viñateros Bravos, Leoncio Wines, and Rogue Vine. Jorge Cotal and Viña Altos del Valle are also reporting losing their wineries to the fires. As a region with mainly small producers and growers, fire damage can be devastating for these small businesses.
Although the full impact of the fires is yet to be determined, as the scenario continues to unfold, some producers are already in arms asking for more help from the state and a more responsible approach to forestry.
“The main problem is the forestry industry,” explains producer in Bio Bio, Juan Jose Ledesma of Viñas Ineditas, “the firebreaks are only roads which don’t do anything for protection. A simple solution would be for the state to subsidise larger fire breaks of at least 300 to 500 metres to stop this risk.”
In 2017 the region also suffered devastating wild fires in late January, which resulted in 575,000 hectares being damaged as well as a significant impact on the wine industry.
There is more information on how to support producers impacted by the fires on this link at The South America Wine Guide: https://southamericawineguide.com/bio-bio-and-itata-fires-2023-information-and-how-to-help/
Amanda Barnes is the drinks business’ regular South America correspondent and author of The South America Wine Guide.
Photos are taken by Leo Erazo and Leoncio Fernandez.