Catastrophic Tank Collapse Destroys 250,000 Liters of South African Wine

Darling Cellars winery was flooded with red wine after a 50,000-liter tank fell, setting off a domino effect

Catastrophic Tank Collapse Destroys 250,000 Liters of South African Wine
Steel wine tanks collapsed at Darling Cellars winery in South Africa, destroying 250,000 liters of wine. (Darling Cellars)
Jun 2, 2021

Darling Cellars is less than 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean on South Africa’s Western Cape. But it was wine, not water, that flooded the winery last month when a 50,000-liter wine tank collapsed, unleashing a frothing stream of red wine and initiating a calamitous domino effect that ended in the loss of 250,000 liters of wine and substantial structural damage.

The chain reaction likely started when the stand supporting one of the 50,000-liter steel tanks collapsed, causing the first tank to knock over an adjacent tank, which knocked over another adjacent tank, which … well, you get the picture. Some of the tanks also smashed through the winery’s concrete walls and damaged pipes.

No humans were injured, but a whole lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cinsault went to waste. “We entered the new year with high hopes,” Darling Cellars managing director Riaan de Waal told Wine Spectator via email. (The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for the South African wine industry.) “The Darling Cellars team is used to battling the odds, and somehow we always come out on top.”

 The walls of Darling Cellars were also heavily damaged when the winery tanks collapsed
The walls of Darling Cellars were heavily damaged when the winery tanks collapsed. (Darling Cellars)

This is the first such accident to strike Darling Cellars, but they're not unknown in the industry: Last year alone, a 50-liter tank ruptured at a Spanish winery, a mechanical failure caused nearly 200,000 liters of wine to overflow into Sonoma's Russian River and a broken winery pipe in Argentina caused another local river of wine.

While Darling has lost some of its 2021 vintage, the winery’s team doesn’t predict any urgent risk to their wine supply or regular business activity. “We believe that we will be able to source red wines to replace those we have lost,” said de Waal. “We just need to re-prioritize our resources and continue to perform sales-wise.”.

De Waal expects to have the damaged tanks replaced before the 2022 harvest. “We have received so much support from the wine industry that it is actually humbling to see how many people care for us,” de Waal said. “We will convert that positive energy to keep us going!”


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