A small town in Portugal experienced an unexpected and unusual event over the weekend as two large tanks holding nearly 600,000 gallons (about 2.2 million liters) of wine collapsed, causing a river of red wine to flow through the streets. The incident occurred in the town of Levira, located in the Portuguese municipality of Anadia, approximately 140 miles north of Lisbon.
According to Pedro Carvalho, the chief executive of the distillery, Destilaria Levira, one of the tanks collapsed due to a structural failure. The force of the collapsing tank then knocked over another tank, resulting in both tanks releasing their contents into the streets. Carvalho described the sight as resembling a river, although there was surprisingly no strong smell in the air due to the good quality of the wine.
The spill, which lasted for about an hour, prompted the local volunteer fire department to assist in the cleanup efforts. Fortunately, no injuries were reported. The distillery took to Facebook to express their regret for the incident and apologized for any damage caused to the town, particularly to a home's basement. They assured the public that they would take full responsibility for the costs associated with cleanup and repairs, and were committed to resolving the situation promptly.
Interestingly, the collapsed tanks were part of a larger effort to address the issue of excess wine in Europe. Portugal, like other major European wine producers such as France and Italy, has been grappling with an oversupply of wine due to a decline in both consumption and exports. The surplus wine was being stored in the tanks that collapsed, as they were specifically designated for surplus storage.
The European Commission, the administrative branch of the European Union, recently announced measures to support wine producers in the region and reduce the excess supplies. These measures are in effect until October 15th. The decrease in wine consumption in Portugal can be attributed to factors such as inflation, a bountiful harvest last year, and ongoing challenges from the coronavirus pandemic. The European Commission estimated a significant drop of 34 percent in wine consumption in Portugal this year. Additionally, wine exports from the European Union have also declined, with a decrease of about 8.5 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to 2022.
The surplus wine issue particularly affects red and rose wines from regions in France, Portugal, and Spain. In response, the French government recently announced a plan to spend an additional 200 million euros (about $214 million) to destroy tens of millions of gallons of wine. The objective is to reduce the oversupply and alleviate the pressure on the wine industry.
The distillery involved in the wine spill in Levira expressed their apologies to the affected neighbors. The incident occurred in the small town of S??o Lorenco de Bairro and was captured on video, showing a torrent of red wine rushing down a narrow, hilly street. While no injuries were reported, there is a possibility that the wine entered a home's basement. Firefighters redirected the flow of wine into fields after diverting it from a nearby river.
Destilaria Levira took responsibility for the cleanup, repair, and damage caused by the wine spill. The distillery emphasized that the storage facility was part of the government's efforts to address the wine surplus crisis in Europe. They described the oversupply as a crisis and stated that they would handle all necessary actions to rectify the situation.
Overall, the wine spill in Levira serves as a striking visual representation of the challenges faced by European wine producers as they grapple with an oversupply of wine. The incident brings attention to the economic and logistical difficulties caused by declining wine consumption and exports, and the measures being taken to address the issue.