New Zealand's Wine Industry Cleaning Up After Earthquake

A 7.5-magnitude quake strikes the South Island, but damage appears limited to broken bottles and leaning steel vats
New Zealand's Wine Industry Cleaning Up After Earthquake
Motorists examine road damage on a highway south of Blenheim after New Zealand's recent earthquake. (Anthony Phelps/Reuters)
Nov 14, 2016

New Zealand was rocked by a major 7.5-magnitude earthquake just after midnight on Nov. 14 near Kaikoura, a coastal community 50 miles northeast of the city of Christchurch on the South Island. Two deaths have been confirmed. Vintners are just starting to assess damage, but early reports are that the wine industry suffered only minimal damage.

"Fortunately, due to the time of day and year there weren't people working in the wineries at the time," said Matt Thomson of Marlborough's Saint Clair winery.

Though much stronger than the 6.5-magnitude quake of 2013 and the 6.3 quake in 2011 that devastated Christchurch, this recent earthquake appears to have caused less damage, as it was centered in a remote region and the energy was dispersed across a greater area.

The past decade's quakes sparked preventative efforts to secure buildings and tanks, which may have reduced the degree of damage suffered this past weekend. "I visited approximately 15 wineries today," said Marcus Pickens, of Wine Marlborough, a winegrowers organization. "Most were either in a state of site closure or had a very small team of site workers meeting with engineers or senior staff to assess potential damage, or to undertake site-safety measures."

Pickens added that he did not see any apparent structural damage to winery buildings, just damage to tanks and minor bottled-wine losses.

"We arrived at work to a tank on a lean and a couple of pallets of wine on the floor of our warehouse," said winemaker Clive Jones of Nautilus in Marlborough. "We transferred the wine to another tank and swept up the broken glass and soggy cardboard. We also had some broken bottles in our museum cellar. Our barrel racks moved around but remained upright. So yes, a setback, but a relatively minor one at this stage." One of the biggest wineries in the region, Cloudy Bay, put out a statement that it expects to be back to business as usual tomorrow.

However, communication across the region is limited and there have been major disruptions to power and water service. There have also been hundreds of aftershocks—many of them registering at greater than 4 in magnitude—and more to come.

The greatest challenges may be ahead, as travel logistics have become complicated. "Ports have been damaged, which will disrupt some shipping, and the road to Christchurch is a mess," explained Thomson, referring to State Highway 1, which runs along the coast of the South Island between Marlborough and Christchurch. Railroad tracks for freight have also sustained heavy damage.

Disasters Earthquake New Zealand News

You Might Also Like

Southern Glazer's and Wine Spectator Raise $1.6 Million for Pandemic-Impacted Restaurant Workers

Southern Glazer's and Wine Spectator Raise $1.6 Million for Pandemic-Impacted Restaurant Workers

With the help of Zachy's, Guy Fieri, Dave Portnoy and a star-studded lineup of vintners, …

Apr 9, 2021
Bill Harlan Appoints His Son, Will, as Managing Director of Harlan Estate

Bill Harlan Appoints His Son, Will, as Managing Director of Harlan Estate

After 40 years at the helm of one of Napa’s premier Cabernet estates, Harlan will step away …

Apr 9, 2021
Severe April Frost Damages Budding Vines in France

Severe April Frost Damages Budding Vines in France

In Burgundy, Chardonnay losses are more severe than Pinot Noir, with Chablis hit particular…

Apr 8, 2021
Napa’s Press Restaurant Names New Wine Director

Napa’s Press Restaurant Names New Wine Director

Vincent Morrow now oversees the Best of Award of Excellence–winning program, known for its …

Apr 8, 2021
Bordeaux Battle Royal: Beauséjour Héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse Sold for €75M

Bordeaux Battle Royal: Beauséjour Héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse Sold for €75M

A young vintner and a cosmetics executive won the property after a surprising bureaucratic …

Apr 8, 2021
Bollinger Champagne Owners Buy Oregon's Ponzi Vineyards

Bollinger Champagne Owners Buy Oregon's Ponzi Vineyards

A pioneering Willamette Valley family, who arrived in the region in 1969 when Oregon Pinot …

Apr 7, 2021