Marlborough wine companies assess damage and count losses following 7.8 magnitude earthquake video

Trevor Burkhart

Burkhart Estate co-owner Trevor Burkhart shows the damage done to his vineyard, south of Blenheim, by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

Wine industry experts in Marlborough are saying the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday was more damaging than the last event to shake the region.

The 2013 Seddon earthquake caused an estimated $100 million worth of damage to wine companies and grape growers, who are putting a brave face on the latest tremors.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said he had been out to inspect more than 20 wineries, and was impressed at the resilience shown by staff.

"There has been damage, and it's fair to say it's bigger than the last event across the board, most wine companies have had some impact in terms of wine loss or tank movement," he said.

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"It's not some kind of catastrophic event that's stopped the wine industry, most companies are moving wine around and preparing it for harvest."

Damage to a barrel hall at Constellation Brands' winery at the Riverlands Industrial Estate, south of Blenheim.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Damage to a barrel hall at Constellation Brands' winery at the Riverlands Industrial Estate, south of Blenheim.

Pickens said some of the larger wine companies were considering moving wine from Marlborough as a precautionary measure against further earthquake damage.

A working estimate put the total proportion of wine lost at 1 per cent of production, which Pickens said was an inconsequential amount.

"There's been an amazing amount of resilience in the industry as well as confidence in the future, that we can supply the market with what they need," he said.

The land at Burkhart Estate vineyard shifted north, twisting the rows of grapes.
TREVOR BURKHART

The land at Burkhart Estate vineyard shifted north, twisting the rows of grapes.

Cracks had appeared in some vineyards around the region, as well as damage to wineries, which had seen tanks and barrels toppled.

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There were also fears wine companies would have to bear the brunt of the costs if their damage did not meet the thresholds required to claim insurance.

Burkhart Estate co-owner Trevor Burkhart said he would have to re-plant about half a hectare of grapes after the earthquake tore cracks through his vineyard.

Land has subsided at the Burkhart Estate vineyard.
TREVOR BURKHART

Land has subsided at the Burkhart Estate vineyard.

The violent movement of the earthquake shifted the land, south of Blenheim near the Opawa River, about 2.5 metres north, he said.

"There's big cracks and the land has subsided, not the whole vineyard though, just this one small area near the river.

"Around 30 of the rows are zig-zagged so you can't drive machinery along them or work the vineyard."

Earthquake damage at Burkhart Estate vineyard, south of Blenheim.
TREVOR BURKHART

Earthquake damage at Burkhart Estate vineyard, south of Blenheim.

The vines would have to be thrown away and re-planted, which would take three years before they were producing again, but the poles and wire could be salvaged, Burkhart said.

"We'll lose a bit but that's just farming, it's like all the people who have lost their paddocks under slips, or their houses," he said.

Yealands Family Wines founder Peter Yealands said there had been some damage at their Seaview winery, near Seddon, but it would not affect the next vintage.

"We've lost a little bit of wine and we've got some dented tanks," he said.

"We're thankful we've come through as well as we have, we've got a lot of newly designed tanks as a result of the last earthquake, which went well for us."

There had been minor damage to the houses and other buildings on the Yealands Estate, but there had been no damage to the 1000-hectare vineyard, Yealands said.

"We're full steam ahead, we've got some dented tanks we'll take out and replace them with new ones," he said.

Constellation Brands senior vice president of operations Colin Nolan said the company had some damage at its wineries, at Hammerichs Rd and the Riverlands Industrial Estate.

The winery at the industrial estate, south of Blenheim, had a wall damaged in one of the barrell halls, toppling barrels and resulting in a loss of wine, he said.

The company had engineering consultants in to assess the damage, but staff were back and working at both sites, however some areas had been isolated because of the damage. 

Foley Family Wines released a statement on the New Zealand Stock Exchange saying their Grove Mill winery, on Waihopai Rd, had incurred significant damage to its bulk wine tanks.

"It is clear that the cost of the damage will exceed the insurance excess for earthquake claims of approximately $1m," the statement read. 

 - The Marlborough Express

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