Image Courtey of Leo Erazo
Winemakers and wine professionals are supporting one another in what is one of the worst catastrophes for Chile’s wine industry. Twenty-four people have died in the wildfires, which started at the end of January and have burned through thousands of acres of forest, crops, vineyards and houses. To date, the still-spreading flames have destroyed more than 400 hectares of vines in Itata Valley and a few in Maule and Bío Bío.
According to Wines of Chile, about 650 producers have been impacted by the wildfires. “The most affected region is Ñuble, where 97% are in Itata Valley,” says Julio Alonso, head of Wines of Chile in the U.S. “There, many old vines were damaged. Some producers have lost everything.” The organization is still assessing the full extent of the damage.
The Devastating Damage
In Chile, wildfires have posed a constant threat in recent years. In 2017, a blaze in the Central Valley burned several vineyards, and many others were affected by the smoke. Sadly, this year it seems worse.
“I have seen more burned vineyards than in 2017,” says Eduardo Jordan, head winemaker at Miguel Torres wines. “It’s still difficult to know exactly how much was lost.” The winery’s 150-year-old vines, of the grape variety País in Bío Bío Valley, were almost destroyed by flames that reached its neighbors. As of press time, flames only 100 meters away are still threatening the vines.