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Adelaide blast kills one, destroys wine store

A massive explosion that ripped through downtown Adelaide and killed one man also destroyed one of the city’s most significant wine establishments.

The blast happened at 3.15am on Tuesday, in the arterial road Pirie Street. It destroyed wine shop and restaurant the Wine Underground, as well as a café and a sports store.

The owner of JP Café, Frank Levato, was found dead under the rubble and jerrycans of petrol were discovered at the scene.

Adelaide’s The Advertiser newspaper reports that the financial situation of the 49-year-old father of three has now become the focus of police investigations.

The Wine Underground, established three years ago, combined a restaurant, bar and retail outlet. It was the first of its kind in Adelaide, the capital of Australia’s major wine state, South Australia. It maintained a major wine collection that included first growth Bordeaux and top Australian wines, as well as hard-to-find wines from boutique producers.

‘We had a relatively eclectic wine list and supported small winemakers,’ says Ben Barletta, one of the four owners. ‘We gave lots of people their start.’ He said he believes smoke, flash and water damage has ruined the collection.

‘The whole front of the café was on the road, and part had blown into the building across the road,’ Peter Hall of the Metropolitan Fire Service said. ‘There’s forensic testing going on and it’s become a crime scene.’

At this stage Barletta doesn’t know whether the Wine Underground will ever reopen. The building is now so unstable that demolition is inevitable. ‘We’ll stay within the wine industry, because we have a wine production and export company,’ he says. ‘But now we need to gather our thoughts.’

Written by Felicity Carter

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