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Chilean Winery Watches Wine Drain Away After Earthquake

The country begins to dig out; wine industry is largely unscathed, but one Elqui Valley winery suffers big loss
Photo by: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images
Washed ashore by 15 foot waves, a boat lies in the middle of a street in Coquimbo, the capital of the Chilean region of the same name, which was hit hardest by the quake.

Kasey Carpenter, Mitch Frank
Posted: September 22, 2015

Six days after an 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck Chile, residents of Coquimbo province and other impacted areas are still assessing damage and beginning to dig out. The extent of the impact of the quake and the massive waves it triggered is still unknown. Chile's wine industry seems to have escaped with minor damage, but at least one winery has lost much of the wine that was aging in tanks and barrels.

"In addition to the initial 8.3 earthquake, we suffered a secondary [tremor] that was between 6.1 and 7.2," Giorgio Flessati told Wine Spectator. Flessati is winemaker at Viña Falernia in the Elqui Valley. "About 35 tanks have collapsed and numerous barrels have ruptured. It is enough!"

Power and phone service was out for much of the weekend in Elqui, an emerging wine region. Flessati reports that the village where the winery is located and all its residents are OK, thankfully. But the quake proved too strong for many of their steel tanks and oak barrels. As of Sunday, he and his team were assessing the extent of the damage to both the building and remaining tanks and barrels.

Flessati said that the devastation came just as he was feeling hopeful—after several years of drought, the region finally enjoyed a good winter in recent months, with enough snow and rain for the coming year. "In three minutes we lost years of hard work," he said. "But we have the pride and passion to come back stronger than before."

At least 13 people have died in the quake, which struck on the evening of Sept. 16. Many others are reported missing. More than 1 million people evacuated from coastal regions to escape the tsunami produced by the quake, which was centered a few miles offshore. In Coquimbo, a port 285 miles north of Santiago, boats littered the city's downtown streets thanks to 15-foot waves triggered by the quake. Wrecked houses and businesses were seen in many other seaside towns and cities.

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