Shaken & Stirred: When Earthquakes Wrack Wineries

earthquake wine bottles damage
Go home Earth, you’re drunk… the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked California’s Napa Valley was only the latest to shake up wineries worldwide.

earthquake wine barrrels Napa 1

The 6.1 magnitude South Napa earthquake that struck California’s Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties early on the morning of August 24th was the most severe temblor to strike the San Francisco Bay Area since the Loma Prieta quake in 1989.

earthquake wine barrels Napa 2

As always, the mass media endeavors to illustrate their on-the-scene reports with the most evocative images of destruction and being the quake struck at the heart of northern California’s wine country, those images have been focused on damaged wineries, wine stores, and residential/commercial wine cellars.  

earthquake wine China

While it’s no surprise wine-related imagery is prominent when describing the damage suffered in the South Napa earthquake, snapshots of smashed wine also often crop up when the media has covered earthquakes in the past – some located far from wine-producing districts, including in China.

earthquake wine Napa 2014

Blame it on the nature of wine-making, wine storage and wine packaging. Wine is a liquid stored, initially at least, in large tanks and/or stacked barrels. Liquid tends to slosh around when disturbed and with enough sloshing, tanks will rupture and barrels will tumble. Even small areas of damage to tanks and barrels will release their precious contents in rich red floods.

earthquake wine barrels Napa 2014

Being a center of widespread commercial wine-making, California’s Napa Valley enjoys a high level of industry-related infrastructure such as barrel storage facilities. Empty barrels can be stacked higher than full ones but in a large earthquake, light barrels falling from tall racks will still suffer inordinately due to their inflexible wood composition.

earthquake sake Japan 2007

Speaking of racks, what images have we seen the most of following strong earthquakes? That’s right: tipped books from library racks and spilled wine bottles from commercial and retail wine stores. The books only look messy due to the massed ranks on library racks; tipped-over racks of wine (or sake, in the case of the 2007 image from Japan above) bottles and their owners are usually not so lucky.

earthquake wine Japan Sendai 2011

One of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded occurred on March 11th, 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated the northeastern Japanese coast and caused the loss of thousands of lives. The effects of this massive quake are still being felt, most ominously at and around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The quake, along with a host of powerful aftershocks, was not kind to wineries and liquor stores where racks of glass bottles released their contents to shatter on unyielding store floors.

earthquake wine Japan 2003

The image above depicts the aftermath of a strong earthquake that rattled Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido on September 26th, 2003. The Tokachi-Ikeda winery in the town of Ikedacho suffered the loss of hundreds of bottles of vintage wines due to the massive temblor. Kudos to Toshifumi Kitamura of AFP/Getty Images for the evocative photos above.

earthquake wine Napa 2014

While in the great scheme of things something like spilled wine pales in comparison with the more human costs of earthquakes, it’s still disheartening for both wine producers and those who appreciate the nectar of the grape to see so much effort and expense wasted. One might say it’s enough to drive one to drink… oh, wait. (all images via Getty Images unless noted otherwise)