SAN FRANCISCO — Ofelia Gallo smashed a bottle Friday to christen a cargo ship that will carry her family's wine around the globe.
Hamburg Süd, the Germany-based owner of the ship, gave her the honor because E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto will be a prominent user of the vessel.
Gallo is the wife of Joseph Gallo, president and chief executive officer of the 80-year-old company and son of co-founder Ernest Gallo. Joseph Gallo also attended the christening, as did Robert Lubeck, CEO of G3 Enterprises, and Patti Reader of G3 Enterprises. G3 crafts corks, bottles and labels for Gallo wine and ships it.
The ceremony at Pier 35, on the city's northeast waterfront, follows a tradition of breaking bottles of sparkling wine at the naming of new ships. Only this wasn't a Gallo product. It was from Oetker-Gruppe, the parent company of Hamburg Süd that also makes bubbly under several labels. And rather than actually bashing the glass against the hull with her own two hands, Ofelia Gallo used a hatchet to chop a rope to cut loose a suspended bottle.
"It was a very impressive ceremony with loads of great nautical tradition," Gallo spokesman John Segale said afterward. "Hamburg Süd started in the shipping business in the 1870s. Yes, 1870s. This was the first time they have christened a ship in the United States."
The 748-foot-long ship, which left for New Zealand on Friday evening, is part of a fleet used by Gallo and other California wineries to transport their products around the world and to bring in bulk wine for bottling here.
Gallo each year ships about 20,000 containers, each 20 feet long, Segale said. Worldwide, the wine industry ships about 800,000 cases annually, holding about 1 billion cases, he said.
The top three routes are between North America and Europe, between South America and North America, and between Australia and North America.
The new ship is named Cap Corrientes, after a cape on the west coast of Mexico. It can hold up to 3,884 containers, which are large boxes that also can be carried by trains and trucks.
The ship's launch comes amid a boom in U.S. wine exports, about 90 percent of them from California. They were worth about $712 million in the first six months of 2013, up 6 percent from the same period in 2012, the Wine Institute reported last week.
Exports for all of last year totaled a record $1.43 billion, the San Francisco-based group reported in February.
Along with Gallo, major players in the world wine trade include Bronco Wine Co. near Ceres; The Wine Group, whose holdings include the former Franzia winery near Ripon; and DFV Wines near Manteca, formerly Delicato.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.