It may seem like a small part of the overwhelming human tragedy gripping Chile right now in the aftermath of the massive earthquake that struck this past weekend, but wine, as WineSpectator.com put it yesterday, “is a leading industry in the two regions around the epicenter, Maule and Bío-Bío, and wineries will be crucial to the area’s long-term economic recovery.”
As more news trickles in from the quake-ravaged country, it is becoming clear that there has been serious damage in some of the most important wine-growing regions in the country. Throughout the Maule Valley, Curico, and beyond, massive losses of wine--in tank, barrel, and bottle--have been reported. And to make matters worse, reports Eric Asimov in his New York Times blog The Pour, “damage not only destroyed wine, but threatens the coming vintage as well. Harvest is nearing, and wineries with severe structural damage and loss of equipment will not have the capacity to make and store wine.”
In the wine regions, at least, the loss of human life seems to have been limited. “The good news,” Asimov reports, “is that very few casualties in the industry were reported, if any. This is partly because the quake struck very early in the morning on a Saturday when wineries were largely empty, limiting the human toll caused by falling barrels and equipment. Many people were also away from work, as this is late summer in Chile, the height of the vacation season.”
It will be some time before we know the full toll that this tragedy has taken on Chile in general and on its wine industry in particular. In the meantime, I’ll be making a point of buying as much Chilean wine as I can in the coming weeks and months in addition to whatever money I donate to rescue efforts. It’s not much, of course, but sometimes, a little show of symbolic support is all you can really do. For the time being, it will have to suffice.