Ever thought of how a cellar would look after an earthquake? Let alone your collection of fine wines – are they safely secured?
Napa County in California, known for its wine industry, experienced an earthquake on the early hours of August 24th, 2014. With a magnitude of 6.1, the quake wrecked bottles and created havoc in and around the Napa valley.
Sunday’s earthquake in Napa jolted 900-pound wine barrels from racks, damaged winery buildings and warehouses, and smashed bottles of the valley’s best – a painful hit for an industry already struggling with the most severe drought in decades. For some winemakers, losses will be significant, depending on where and how their wines were stored.
At Napa Barrel Care, a large warehouse for wine storage just south of the city, Carole Meredith and her husband, Steve Lagier, surveyed an array of tumbled barrels. “We’re physically fine but emotionally shell-shocked,” Meredith said. “It’s just devastating.”
“There is a lake of wine on the floor,” Meredith said. Workers were siphoning the spilled wine into tanks just to clean the facility. Wines from the 2013 vintage are mostly still in barrel, and “there’s just going to be huge losses,” said Meredith, a former UC Davis vine geneticist who owns the Lagier Meredith winery on Mount Veeder.
Because the 2013 vintage was a particularly bountiful one, and many wines have yet to be released, the quake’s impact may not be felt by wine consumers immediately. But for individual winemakers such as Meredith, “this is going to be a really expensive earthquake for the wine business.”
At Saintsbury, located on heavy soils in the Carneros area northwest of the airport, barrels tumbled to the floor – most were empty, said winemaker Chris Kajani. But Saintsbury’s 30-year-old water tank jumped its foundation, leaving the winery without water and delaying its planned grape picks. Crushing grapes requires significant amounts of water to clean equipment.
While Saintsbury lost almost no new wine, it did sustain a heavy loss to its collection of vintages from the 1980s and ’90s. “When I opened up the library, it was like a foot deep in glass,” Kajani said.
And the winery, like many in Napa, had a particular saving grace: 80-kilowatt solar panels, which provided power despite widespread outages.
Napa is home to nearly 800 wineries, which produced 49.7 million cases of wine in 2012, according to the Napa Valley Vintners, a trade association.
With South Africa not being a heavy earthquake “target”, the need to take steps to make our environment safer has not been a topic of discussion, but don’t you think we should start thinking outside of what we think is norm? What if an earthquake struck the Western Cape an all its wine routes? With two earthquakes in less than a month in the Gauteng province, we might not be as invincible as we might hope…