Knight-Ridder via Houston Chronicle:
Searing heat and lack of electricity throughout New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina ruined hundreds of thousands of bottles of rare wines by degrading corks and cooking the contents.
Owners fear that even those bottles that appear to have survived the hurricane may hold spoiled wine.
This city's once-vibrant culinary industry, already beaten back by disaster, has been further injured by damage to its wines. Losses are estimated to be as much as tens of millions of dollars. Private collectors, restaurants and distributors are preparing to destroy much of their stock. Insurance companies are just beginning to assess the damage and deal with the tricky job of determining the wines' value.
For wine lovers, it's an incalculable loss.
Dr. Chuck Mary, a Metairie-area resident, returned to his home weeks after the storm to find his 500-bottle private collection destroyed by flooding and heat.
Losing a bottle of 1946 Chateau Latour hit Mary the hardest, he said, but not just for its estimated $1,500 value.
"It was given to me when I got married in 2000, and I intended on drinking it on my fifth anniversary," which was Oct. 14, he said.
Many wine collections in this low-lying city were kept above ground in attics and storage rooms. When electricity and air-conditioning failed, the temperature rose and ruptured corks, which allowed in oxygen that degraded the wine. Some were ruined just from simmering in 98-degree temperatures.
"Like food, when you cook it, that changes it," said Gladys Horiuchi, spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based Wine Institute. About 1,000 restaurants in the greater New Orleans area have wine collections and nearly all were affected, said Tom Weatherly, spokesman for the Louisiana Restaurant Association.
"I know we are talking about millions of dollars in loss down here," Weatherly said. Collections will have to be rebuilt and allowed to increase in value.