Wineries Go Online

Some wineries are trying to turn a potentially catastrophic blow to the industry into a new business opportunity.

Since the coronavirus pandemic forced many vineyards and wine tasting businesses to shut their doors to customers, wineries  across the world are trying to recoup losses by moving to delivery and online tastings.

“The virtual tasting experience has been a long time coming, especially for a family-owned winery,” an ambassador from Ken Wright Cellars, a winery based in rural Oregon, told WineEnthusiast. “If anything, this crisis has just accelerated trends currently happening around the country and in our culture.”

You can join many of the tastings for free over Zoom, or choose to have the wine delivered to your door as part of a package deal.

Different wineries offer virtual vineyard tours, opportunities to talk with the owners, sommeliers, and wine educators, and even help for collectors who want to organize their cellars.

Many businesses have opted to sign their employees or members up for virtual wine tastings instead of more traditional workplace events and team-building outings.

The overall impact on the wine industry remains to be seen, but early indications point to a decline in sales. The effects on wineries around the world are extremely varied depending on countries’ consumer preferences, government policy, and existing infrastructure of e-commerce channels.

Some countries have been more hesitant or unable to embrace an e-commerce model fully.

Italy, the top wine-producing country in the world, has had difficulty coping. Even before coronavirus hit, weather events in southern Europe caused problems for the Italian wine industry, as well as France and Spain. Italy relies heavily on wine consumption in bars, restaurants, and neighborhood shops, which combined make up 65% of wine consumption there.

Even harder hit is South Africa, which has a less developed e-commerce market. Early in the pandemic, the government banned all alcohol sales and prohibited the export of alcohol for five weeks. South Africa’s place as the eighth largest producer of wine may be in jeopardy as cases continue to spike there.

In the U.S., the situation doesn’t look quite as grim. Sales have been increasing throughout the pandemic, with a 30 percent jump in May, and a system well equipped to move online.

The few chains that control around 60 percent of the wine market and wineries that do their business with them have expanded greatly in recent years, and show no signs of slowing down because of coronavirus.

However, small wineries seem to be struggling to transition entirely online, as restaurants and bars remain closed around the country.

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