The Streets Ran Red — Flood of Wine Rips Through Portuguese Town

  • Props to the winemaker for stepping up to repair what their product destroyed.

A red tide washing over a city’s streets is never a good thing. That said, it’s not always as gruesome as you might expect.

Recently, the streets certainly ran red in a small Portuguese town. Fortunately, the stuff flowing through the village wasn’t anyone’s vital fluids.

It was wine.

An accident at a local distillery caused enormous wine tanks to burst. The incident sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of wine ripping through the village of Levira in western Portugal.

It was lucky that it wasn’t blood washing over the town. The deluge of wine, however, did still cause significant damage to infrastructure, homes, and vehicles.

As a silver lining, the culprit seems responsible. Destilaria Levira, the distillery that owns the burst wine tanks, has said they will promptly pay for all the costs resulting from the incident.

Man, we knew wine flowed freely in Portugal but we never imagined it would be like this.

A ‘Structural Failure’

The village of Levira, near the town of São Lourenço do Bairro in western Portugal, is usually a quiet, peaceful place. It’s about as idyllic as rural Portugal gets, with the wine producer Destilaria Levira being a significant player in the area.

But Levira’s peace was disturbed on September 10. A storage tank holding a massive amount of wine experienced what Destilaria Levira CEO Pedro Carvalho described to New York Times as a “structural failure.”

In more practical terms, the open-topped tank’s supports collapsed catastrophically. The tank tipped over, spilling all of its contents out in a tidal wave of red wine.

As if that wasn’t enough, the wine tsunami crashed onto another tank — holding even more wine. The force of the impact knocked that tank over as well.

With nowhere else to go, the crimson fluid flowed out of the storage facility and onto Levira’s streets. In total, 600,000 gallons of wine flooded through the village.

The deluge lasted for less than an hour. Fortunately, no one appears to have gotten hurt in the accident.

That said, it’s not like the rushing tides of wine didn’t cause any damage. The flood damaged several cars, dirtied the streets, and one home’s basement reportedly is now full of wine.

We don’t know about you, but if it was our basement, one of our first questions would be: “Can we keep it?”

Owning Up

Our second question, however, would be about who’s going to pay to repair our basement. On that note, Destilaria Levira is owning up to its own mistakes.

“Although the incident did not cause any injuries, we want to express our sincere concern for the damage caused,” the distillery wrote in a Facebook statement.

“We take full responsibility for the costs associated with damage cleanup and repair, with crews available to do it immediately. We’re committed to resolving this situation as soon as possible.”

The company encouraged local residents to take photos of any damage and to get in touch with their customer service representatives.

It’s nice to see a business not trying to dodge its public responsibilities for a change.

There was some concern of the wine flowing into a local river an causing environmental damage, local council member Jorge Sampaio told Jornal de Notícias. Luckily, emergency workers were able to divert the wine away from the river.

What wine remained on the streets was gathered up and taken to a wastewater treatment facility.

According to Destilaria Levira’s Carvalho, the village won’t have to worry about the streets stinking on old wine. He said the wine was “good quality” that shouldn’t leave behind any lingering smells.

Suppose that’s one way to take pride in your product.

Blame the Inflation

Although the collapsed tanks belonged to Destilaria Levira, they aren’t entirely to blame for the incident. It’s root cause lies in the fact that there’s too much wine in Portugal and all of Europe.

The Portuguese love their wine and the country boasts the highest wine consumption per capita in the world. However, with the pandemic and the recent inflation, many locals have had to tighten their budgets and leave wine off their dinner tables.

Just this year, Portuguese wine consumption has fallen 34%. With no one buying the wine in Europe or elsewhere, producers like Destilaria Levira have had no choice but to store their surplus in massive tanks.

The European Union has announced measures to help get rid of the excess of wine. Yet, that’s where the real cause is — if the Portuguese could still afford their usual bottle-a-day wine habit, the flood would never have happened.

It doesn’t always take a global financial crisis to case a wine flood, though. In 2020, a mechanical failure at a California vineyard’s tank spilled 97,000 gallons of wine into a local river.

You can read more about that in our article on weird food floods!