It has been a long, tough road through the pandemic to this point in time in mid-2021. Some wineries were irreparably harmed by the extended shutdowns from Covid-19, while others weathered the storm intact. Overall projected wine industry revenue was down by 14 percent for the year 2020.
Compounded by wildfires throughout the west coast’s growing regions and climate change factors effecting certain varietal maturation times, it’s fair to say the wine industry has and will continue to experience significant challenges. One example of the effects of climate change was experienced by growers of the varietal Burgundy which had its earliest harvest ever in the 2020 growing season.
Wine sales and the general promotion of many winery’s wines and wine clubs are typically best done through in-person tasting room experiences and winery food pairing and weekend events. The pandemic did significant damage to these on-premises marketing efforts by closing them down entirely. As a result, many wineries allotted more marketing dollars from tasting room to online digital marketing of their products.
Producers were not the only group in the wine industry to experience declines from government shutdowns because of Covid-19. In-person experiential wine classes were forced to go virtual during the pandemic with the utilization of online technology such as Zoom and other group social platforms. Instructors were challenged to find more creative methods within these platforms to enhance the learning experience above and beyond the in-person evening and weekend event model.
The growth of online shopping rose dramatically during the pandemic. The e-grocery sector increased by an amazing $60 billion in 2020. The internet proved to be essential for survival during this period where face-to-face interactions with clients became severely diminished or non-existent. Imagine not having the option of online sales in such times. Many wineries that made it to this point in the pandemic owe their continued existence to cyberspace.
Grocery stores with curbside pickup, delivery services and micro fulfillment centers additionally helped to keep wineries afloat by sustained distribution of wine products throughout the country. Essential workers providing these crucial services deserve substantial praise. These extraordinary individuals put themselves in harm’s way to keep food moving and the wine flowing. Many wineries owe their continued existence to these selfless individuals without whom some brands would be ancient history.
Some wineries embraced the pandemic as a chance to give back to their customers and communities. In Spain, a cooperative of more than 700 winegrowers found a way to raise over EUR 25,000 for health care and vaccine development in less than a month’s time. This cooperative called Grandes Vinos, had previous experience contributing to social responsibility programs, allowing them to quickly step-up to the plate when the pandemic hit. This societal outreach significantly contributed to the strengthening of the winemaker’s products and brand recognition. all while contributing to society in a uniquely devastating time of need.
The above example is proof that wineries can creatively identify and participate in opportunities to help during an extended shutdown while continuing to promote their products. Participating in and refining these types of socially responsible programs ahead of a global disruptive event will prepare the business for future events. A period of unprecedented hardship and uncertainty such that COVID-19 requires “outside-the-box” preparedness to survive such earth-changing events. Advanced preparation is always better than waiting for the hammer to drop. We are indeed in unprecedented times. We must be ready for the eventual inevitable once again with preparedness rather than shock and dumbfounded surprise.