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Cascades of red wine flood a city's streets in Portugal after huge tanks rupture

A "river of wine" cascaded down the streets of a small town in Portugal, after two large tanks ruptured at a nearby distillery.
_o_cabra_da_peste via X / Screenshot by NPR
A "river of wine" cascaded down the streets of a small town in Portugal, after two large tanks ruptured at a nearby distillery.

There is so much surplus red wine in Portugal, it's flooding the streets. That's one way of deciphering the incredible scene that unfolded in São Lourenço do Bairro, a small town where millions of liters of wine recently overwhelmed the roads.

The roughly 2.2 million liters of wine (some 581,000 gallons) poured out of two burst tanks at Destilaria Levira on Sunday, according to local newspaper Diário de Coimbra. A viral video from the scene shows a "river of wine" coursing down a hilly street, sluicing over its curbs.

The company issued a statement saying it "profoundly laments" the incident, pledging to bear the costs of the cleanup. São Lourenço do Bairro sits near Portugal's coast, roughly an hour's drive south from Porto.

No one was hurt by the torrent of wine, but it did reportedly flood at least one cellar. Local officials are now working to repair the damage done, and also to prevent the alcoholic liquid from affecting local farms, vineyards and water supplies.

The large amount of wine was being stored at the distillery through the government's "crisis distillation" program, which aims to use incentive funds to remove a glut of wine from the market pipeline before this year's harvest. It was slated to be converted into alcohol.

Portugal has the world's highest wine consumption rate per capita, but these are difficult times for wine producers across Europe. Portugal's wine consumption is in a freefall (down 34%), the European Union said this summer, citing inflation and other pressures. Large countries such as France and Germany are also seeing double-digit declines.

Destilaria Levira says it is investigating the cause of the breach that sent the wine cascading down the town's streets. The distillery also thanked local firefighters, who were able to corral some of the wine and take it to a treatment plant, according to local reports.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.