Chilean earthquake: wineries, tanks, bottles damaged or destroyed

Tragedy struck Chile overnight on Friday in the form of a massive earthquake that has displaced two million people, severed north-south bridges in the narrow country, and killed hundreds of people (see coverage on

Chile has a large, export-oriented wine industry. Some of infrastructure, particularly in the regions of Maule and Rapel (including Colchagua), has been damaged or destroyed. Contacted via email, Lori Tieszen, executive director of Wines of Chile USA, says that Jose Manuel Ortega reports “devastation” in Maule and that his winery sustained some damage; Julio Bouchon of J. Bouchon, “is safe but his beautiful old winery is leveled,” Tieszen writes. In 2006, the Oxford Companion to Wine described Maule as “slowly changing its reputation of growing only bulk wine.”

“One can smell wine along the roads in front of the wineries. Tanks laying, collapsed buildings, barrels and glass everywhere,” winemaker Sven Bruchfeld told James Molesworth, wine critic for Chilean wine at Wine Spectator magazine.

Molesworth has been tweeting what he hears from wineries (follow his feed for the latest). Another source told him, “Big damage to the industry. Millions of liters on the floor.” He also tweeted that Montes and Lapostolle were hit hard in Colchagua, an area that had seen lots of investment in the wine indsutry. Feel free to add news in the comments if you have updates.

Depending on the region and grape variety, the harvest has already started or was scheduled to start soon in the country.

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12 Responses to “Chilean earthquake: wineries, tanks, bottles damaged or destroyed”

  1. […] wie Dr. Vino und Jancis Robinson bemühten sich, Freunde in Chile zu errreichen. Vor wenigen Minuten gab […]

  2. […] Chilean earthquake: wineries, tanks, bottles damaged or destroyed […]

  3. Many Argentine wineries ship their wines via Valparaiso, Chile. It must be a mess there also at this time.

  4. If the damage to CA wineries in the 1989 earthquake, registering around 7.0, is any indication, every part of the winery complex is at risk. Many of the older Chilean wineries are masonry construction. Unreinforced masonry falls apart in earthquakes.

    The newer wineries are basically warehouse construction in many cases, tilt up wall and roof trusses. Even if built to withstand quakes of 7.5 or so, the typical standard, this was an 8.8 magnitude event and will certainly cause some of those structures to collapse.

    Wooden tanks often split apart because the weight inside them is enormous. When it is just sitting there, it does not threaten their integrity, but once that weight gets in motion, and with the twisting and thrusting forces in large quakes, many large tanks will simply burst or splinter.

    Barrel stacks, unless anchored, will all crash down, and once those barrels, that weigh hundreds of pounds when full, get into motion, they are wrecking machines. In our 1989 quake, some of the pictures of smashed barrels, caused by the violence with which they were thrown around, were almost scary. Many barrels were reduced to kindling. Others were tossed around like Legos.

    New tanks would seem to be the most secure, but here again, there is an enormous amount of weight inside them. A violent upward thrust of thousands of pounds of stable liquid turned out to cause the bottoms of many tanks to bulge outward and lose their usefulness even if they did not burst.

    And finished goods are also at risk. For those wineries that simply make stacks of filled bottles not in cases, on palates and shrink wrapped, those bottle stacks turn into thousands of flying missiles.

    So, lots of damage has to be expected. The weird thing about quakes, however, is that we have seen here how one building can be damaged and its neighbors untouched. One house (remember we are all on slabs here, no foundations) will have it slab broken as the earth twisted underneath it while the next six houses will remain intact. All wineries are on slabs, and even if they do not lose all their wine, it would be likely that some buildings will simply become unuseful because they need to be reconstructed from the ground up.

    We are just now seeing on dribs and drabs of info about the Chilean wine industry because the first problem and immediate focus is on resuce and survival. Not a good time for anyone down there.

  5. […] Vino also has a post that shows a basic map of the wine producing valleys, relative to the quake […]

  6. Given the discussion on Friday about the challanges facing the Chilean wine industry, this new development is a significant one that will impact current exports and the upcoming harvest. Also, as mentioned in an above post, a lot of the wine coming out of Mendoza takes the shorter route over the Andean pass to the port of Valparaiso, rather than the long haul to the Agentinian coast, and this will possibly affect the flow of Malbec north.
    However, we should remember that the Chileans are a tough, resourceful, optimistic, and resilient people… they will work hard to make the best of this bad situation.

  7. […] Also on Chile, Dr. Vino’s wine blog lists the vineyards harmed by the earthquake. It may seem trivial, but wine is a big export for the […]

  8. […] Vino is tracking earthquake damage to Chilean wineries with a simple map of Chilean wine regions in relation to the quake’s […]

  9. Complete story about chilean wine status at:

  10. […] Vino also has a post that shows a basic map of the wine producing valleys, relative to the quake […]

  11. I guess the “streets running with wine” isn’t such a good thing, after all!

    Hope the people of Chile have been able to start the recovery from this tragedy.

  12. Here’s a water tank that suffered damage
    during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake


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