As I tour wine valleys about Santiago, vintners recall the day of the quake but don't dwell on it. They talk fleetingly but not glibly about large stainless-steel fermentation tanks collapsing as if they were soft-drink cans being stomped on, a dam falling apart, barrels shattering. One vintner says he lost two million liters of wine. Another says he lost 1.5 million liters. A third put his loss at 1.6 million liters. In all, the Chilean wine trade lost around 125 million liters. Vintners don't shrug off the quake and its aftermath, but their attitude suggests that they are well acquainted with their environment and its history and that they recognize the need to move on.
At one winery, Casa Silva, marketing and hospitality manager Thomas Wilkins Biggs recalled how 80 laborers worked six months to repair the cellar, how its restaurant had to be relocated to another building on the edge of the estate's polo field, and how the on-site hotel only reopened in September. As he led me through a maze of tunnels under the cellar I couldn't help but ask, "Did any of the tunnels...." "No," he was quick to respond, apparently picking up the quiver in my voice.
|At wine estate Vik, rebuilt dam awaits winter rains|
The dam, however, has been rebuilt, its new rock gleaming in the intense Chilean sun. This winter, provided that normal rains return, it again will fill with runoff, and the region's farmers will rejoice. Here and there throughout Chile's wine regions, evidence of last year's quake remains in the rubble of adobe houses, in the water wheels that got knocked off kilter and still aren't again turning, and in the nervous chatter among residents and visitors when they discuss the length and intensity of the previous night's aftershock that awoke them.
Despite their losses and the apprehension they continue to feel with each tremor, Chileans haven't lost their sense of humor. At the winery Lapostolle, winemaker Andrea Leon Iriarte recalls the earthquake advice her grandmother gave her family: "'Wear nice nighties and don't close the door; they jam.'" Maybe that isn't so much humor as sound advice.