Wine in the Time of Corona Virus

The new decade has begun in a traumatic way. January has been characterized by the tension between Iran and the USA, but in the meantime, the great protagonist of February’s news was already preparing its outcoming.

Corona Virus is currently the top one preoccupation of the world, dominating newspaper and broadcast channels, even when the South Pole is dramatically melting. With 79’827 cases and 2’870 deaths (March 1st, 2020), the spread of this new disease has changed the lives of millions of people in China and around the world. Economies are collapsing, industries are frozen, and many businesses are struggling to carry on.

The wine industry, for instance, is facing many challenges whose solutions are difficult to foresee.

The Chinese wine market after Corona Virus

China, where the Corona Virus made its first appearance, is one of the world’s largest wine markets, accounting, for example, 30% of LVMH (world biggest luxury group) sales. A drop of around 80% has happened in February and a 50% fall is forecasted for March (estimations made by Torres, Spain’s leading wine company). These are the natural consequences of the growing number of COVID-19 cases and the procedures imposed by the government to limit the contagion. Wuhan region has been isolated, road traffic blocked, trains and planes stopped.

In China wine is mostly consumed when accompanying a meal, but as people are forced to remain in their houses, restaurants are closed and no re-stock orders will be issued. Besides that, there are plenty of wine loads stuck in the ports, blocked for the lack of customs staff.

Chinese international wine trade fairs, such as TaoWine, TWC Chengdu Fine Wine Showcase, CIADE, have been postponed to unknown dates with the consequence of visibility loss, missed partnership opportunities, missed market development, loss in tourism and connected income. Similar effects are expected after the cancellation of world and European trade fairs.

Corona Virus spreading to the world

Besides Europe, this great fall of consumption of wine in China has been a rough blow to Australia and Chile. Australia sells a large number of its wines to China, and after the devastation of lasts month’s fires and floodings, it now has to stand up without that income.

Chile, on the other hand, will have to find new places for the one-third of its total production that was used to be imported by China. Before the coronavirus, China admitted up to 350 containers of Chilean wine a day. Now, an average of 50 cases per day pass through customs. The remaining cases sit in the port, unsold and unconsumed. Even with the backlog at the ports, few cases are being sold.

Corona Virus spreading in Europe

The most clamorous effect of Corona Virus reaching Europe, in the wine industry, is surely the postponement of ProWein, the continent’s biggest wine trade fair, held in Düsseldorf in March. We currently still don’t know if the event will be delayed or completely canceled.

A different decision has been taken for another main wine event in Europe: Vinitaly. Italy’s most important wine expo, which reaches its 54th edition this year, will be moved from the 19th to the 22nd of April to the 14th-17th of June. This news comes from one of the most afflicted countries in the world, but “the world of wine in Italy has already proved it can be an engine for change. We are sure once again that the wine industry will help our economy stand up again and bring back trust in our country" says Giovanni Mantovani, general manager of Veronafiere.

After an initial moment of chaos and fear, a positive mood is now circulating, and most of the Italians are facing the treat with humor and trust: sleepy cities are slowly returning to their everyday standards, citizens populate the city centers, restaurants and bars welcome back their customers.

The typical Italian humor and mindset may be the keys to fight the recession and contrast the panic of this period. It’s emblematic, in regards to the suspicion and mistrust of some, the experience lived by a winery in Vo Euganeo (Veneto), the second town where Corona Virus was found: they have been receiving back a lot of its wines from their clients, sealed in plastic bags as they were carriers of death instead of controlled and certified goods.

“We must be cautious and careful, but sadness and fear don’t solve problems, “says a citizen interviewed in Milan, one of the cities most affected by the apprehension. 
“We know that alcohol kills the virus, so I have here my protection", says a man pointing at his glass of wine during an Aperitivo.

To fight back panic, the city of Milan has produced this video to show his strong character and its will to go back to normal life.

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