Thursday, April 21, 2011


My last posts on Alex Guarachi and La Playa have led me to take a look at the devastating 2010 Chilean earthquake and its impact on that wine industry. First things first. The quake was rated 8.8 on the Richter Scale, the ninth largest on record (including Japan) and killed 800 people. President Michelle Bachelet estimated economic losses at 30 billion dollars. The quake altered the earth's axis by 3 inches and shortened days by 1.26 microseconds and I guess we will have to trust the experts on some of this stuff.

Chile is the tenth largest wine producer in the world. The earthquake epicenter was in Maule, which is roughly in the middle of the long strip of Chilean wine country. 70% of Chilean wine originates in that region. The losses seem to fall into three categories: wine already made and in the bottle or barrel; the 2009 vintage at varying stages of production; and the industry's buildings and infrastructure. A timeline going forward may be helpful. The finished wine in bottles and barrels is an immediate and irreplaceable loss. The 2009 vintage that was in fermenting tanks that collapsed is likewise gone as is anything in the vineyard that needed irrigation if electricity failed. While the 2010 vintage should be unaffected, the wineries that lost their facilities may have to make their wines elsewhere.

So what are the losses to the industry? It is hard to say. Most all of the brands we are familiar with mention losses in all three of the areas above. Some individual wineries have made loss estimates between 12% and 80% of the 2009 vintage. Much remains vague though. Because wine is such a valuable export product for Chile and because of the nature of the modern worldwide distribution system, many losses have to be minimized. Contracts have to be filled; therefore, juice will have to be purchased elsewhere to maintain shipments to secure designated shelf space in stores around the world.

This weekend we are tasting out two of Chile's best: Casa Silva Reserve Carmenere ($12.99/btl) and Reserve Pinot Noir ($14.99). These wines are ridiculously good, so mention the blog and get a ten percent discount.

Happy Easter!


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