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Chilean wine industry shaken by quake

Chile's biggest winemaker is stopping production for at least a week because of earthquake damage.

Several of Concha y Toro's major wineries sustained serious damage in the most devastated zone of Chile, hundreds of miles south of the capital, Santiago.

“The area with the largest impact is the heartland of wine production,” said the firm. “Our company, as well as the rest of the industry, have been heavily impacted by this catastrophe.”

The company suspended all production and delivery for a week in a zone where the major north-south road was severely damaged, alongside harm to ports in the region that is expected to hurt Chile's important seafood export sector.

“We have already been able to assess serious damage to some of our main wineries which are located in the worst affected areas,” Concha y Toro said. “This includes important loss in wine and production capacity. A more detailed assessment of the exact magnitude of these damages is currently being completed.”

Concha y Toro is Chile's largest wine producer and exporter and also has operations based in Argentina. It had sales of $590m in 2008 and sold 26.6m cases of wines in 131 countries.

Most of Chile's vineyards lie south of the capital, where bridges fell, roads cracked and ports were swamped. Of the quake's 723 victims, most were in the wine-growing Maule region that includes the port city of Talcahuano, now a mud-caked city of 180,000 devastated by a tsunami.

The Chilean government has not yet calculated a damage estimate, but the Santiago-based research firm IM Trust research estimated the earthquake |could cause up to $8bn dollars in losses.