Shipwreck leaves wineries floundering

A French barrel maker and a number of South African winemakers are counting the cost of the wreck of the Napoli container ship, which spilt its cargo onto the English coast at the weekend.

Tonnellerie Boutes saw 158 of its oak barriques scattered across Branscombe beach in Devon at the weekend, when a 40 cubic metre container filled with its barrels, burst open after it was washed off the grounded freight ship.

Julien Segura, head of communications for the barrelmaker , told OLN's sister magazine Wine & Spirit that the barrels were on their way to South Africa at the time, destined for a number of different wineries. "They are mainly for the vinification of white wines, so this may cause problems for some of the wineries with the 2007 harvest about to start."

One of the wineries which was expecting to use the Boutes barrels is Graham Beck Wines, where they are used for top Chardonnay and some red wines.

Irene Waller, winemaker for Graham Beck Wines in Robertson, South Africa, said: "This is really going to affect us. We really like the Boutes barrels, because they have a great influence on our Chardonnay, so I can see I'm now going to have to make other plans."

Segura said the company is trying to send out a new consignment to South Africa as quickly as possible, but is not yet sure of a date.

Segura confirmed that the cost of the barrels, which are worth about £425 each, would be met by the shippers' insurance policy, and remained relaxed about his barrels being removed from the beach by local treasure seekers : "I suppose it's just their good luck."