Two massive earthquakes hit Emilia-Romagna, claiming at least 24 lives and dealing a serious blow to agriculture of this northern Italian region, known for its wine and food.
Since the first 6.0-magnitude quake hit on Sunday, May 20, there have been 800 aftershocks, the strongest occurring on Tuesday, May 29. The 5.8-magnitude shake particularly hurt the Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, balsamic vinegar and wine industries, with damages at an estimated $650 million.
“I lost everything, my home and my restaurant,” said Giovanni D’Amato, owner of the two-Michelin starred restaurant, Il Rigoletto, in Reggio Emilia. “I lost many important bottles of French and Italian wine, but I can’t yet put a number on the devastating damages I suffered.”
According to Coldiretti, Europe’s largest agricultural professional organization, about one million wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheese were violently thrown off wooden aging racks and smashed to the ground, while the balsamic vinegar sector lost approximately $19 million in damages.
The Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna, the regional wine authority, confirmed that while some local wineries and cellars suffered damages, the cheese and balsamic vinegar industries faced the most devastation. “Damages to balsamic vinegar were far worse. The strong earthquake caused the metal rings that hold wood staves together to break spilling the vinegar onto the ground,” the association said in a statement. “The wineries that registered the worst damages were located in San Prospero and Carpi, south of Modena, where wineries and cellar rooms suffered structural effects.”
Vineyards were fortunately not damaged. And because this area is known for the production of Lambrusco, which does not require aging in expensive oak barrels, those damages were also limited.