Winemaking is so often considered a fabulous job, packed with glamour and excitement. But I was saddened to read yesterday of a 25 year old Spanish winemaker who died earlier this week. Overcome by CO2 fumes, Nerea Perez fell directly into a fermenting tank and died of suffocation.
It reminded me of my very own experience whilst making wine at Domaine de la Chevaliere in southern France several years ago. Luckily, I’m here to tell my tale but I shall never forget that horrific experience.
Domaine de la Chevaliere is a fantastic, state-of-the-art winery with safety features galore. Yet when a grape fermentation takes hold, the air literally fills with CO2 as the grapes break down and suck up every last ounce of oxygen.
Ventilation is key – windows, doors, fans, you name it. Yet on the day that I was affected, not even this was sufficient. Being starved of oxygen, your body is literally poisoned with carbon dioxide. I was confined to bed for four or five hours so that my body could recover .
Spare a thought for Nerea Perez – a bright young winemaker who, by all accounts, had a sparkling career ahead of her.