Quake compromises Chile's wine industry

Excerpted from news service

As the death toll in Chile climbs to near 800, the toll from Saturday's 8.8-magnitude earthquake on one of its largest exports, wine, still is being assessed.

"The impact on the infrastructure was considerable as the earthquake severely affected the heart of the Chilean wine industry: Maipo, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Maule and Bio Bio wine regions," Salvador Domenech, managing director of Santa Rita wines said. "We don't see major impact on the vineyards, so we are maintaining the enthusiasm regarding the quality of the upcoming grapes."

Viña Concha y Toro SA, the major wine producer, has halted operations for at least a week due to damage to its facilities caused by the Saturday quake.

Most of the fatalities so far have been in the wine-growing Maule region that includes the port city of Talcahuano, which also was devastated by a post-quake tsunami.

Luis Mayol, president of Chile's National Agriculture Society, told Chilean business daily Diario Financiero the industry is likely to suffer some significant losses from the earthquake, which seriously damaged the country's infrastructure, including wine storage facilities.

Antonio Larrain, general manager of the Chilean Wine Corporatin, said 70% of the country's vineyards are located in quake-hit areas.

He said the country has 900 million liters of wine in stock at the moment. A first analysis suggests that 20% of that amount might be "compromised."

The start of the harvest season was to have begun in parts of Chile last weekend.

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