The British freighter Napoli was beached along the English coast over the weekend and hundreds of containers were lost overboard. In addition to dog food, cosmetics and BMW motorcycles, part of the booty to wash up on the Devon coast were 158 new French oak barrels.
French barrel maker Tonnellerie Boutes said the barrels were headed to South African wineries, but the barriques ended up on Bascombe beach, where treasure hunting locals were picking through the cargo.
The issue for South African vintners is that the 2007 harvest is about to begin and wineries face a barrel shortage. Tonnellerie Boutes said it would expedite the manufacture of replacement barrels, but they may not arrive when they are needed.
The barrels, worth $850 each, are covered under the shipping company's insurance policy.