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Covid 19

In what ways has Covid 19 changed the wine industry? Or has it made any impact at all? Or has it only affected some sectors? Please comment on where you see the most impact from farm to table ie, field practices, winery practices, imports, exports, marketing, wine education, on-site sales and off-site sales, private and public tastings, conventions, employment and/or career opportunities, auction activity. Will there be a “new normal” or a “back to normal.”
Answer From Expert Roger Bohmrich MW

This is an important and timely question with many facets. I do not have the space here to do it justice, so I'll have to touch on a few key points. The challenge is to separate effects connected to Covid from larger systemic trends. There has been an upward movement in prices or "premiumization" for some years, which Covid seems to have accelerated. Consumers have been shifting to more expensive wines offering, we might say, greater pleasure per ounce while drinking fewer entry-level wines (below $10 retail). A direct Covid impact was to shift wine consumption from on- to off-premise; the road to complete recovery for restaurants will be slow and long. Rather than shopping in person, consumers turned to the internet as well-positioned retailers enjoyed strong sales through their websites. Similarly, wineries witnessed healthy increases in direct-to-consumer (DTC) purchases. It seems likely that these patterns will be sustained to a degree as shopping and dining gradually return to pre-crisis patterns. Travel, on the other hand, is not likely to go back to earlier levels for the near future, depressing wine drinking in hotels, bars, restaurants, and in the air. Conferences, conventions, and business meetings will take a long time to return to pre-pandemic norms now that the world has switched to Zoom. The shift from big city to suburb and from office to home will certainly have sustained effects. To the extent drinkers prefer to stay away from others, the return to "normal" will be delayed. But underlying trends cannot be ignored: a continuing decline in per capita wine consumption while consumers show interest in ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages (RTDs) and spirits. Add to that the growing interest in low-alcohol wines, or "pretend" zero-alcohol beverages (cleverly packaged to look like the real thing). The Millennial generation in particular is not taking up wine in the way industry observers once predicted. It does appear that the U.S., the world's largest market in total volume, is not on the path to becoming a true wine culture in the European model. The "normal" ahead of us will still include Covid in one form or another - or some other virus yet to appear. Let's cross our fingers that an annual booster and common-sense protections will be widely embraced and allow us to live life in the way we all would prefer. Hope this addresses at least some of your queries.

About Our Expert

Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with a leading European company. Previously, he served as senior executive of importers Frederick Wildman & Sons. In recent years, Roger has judged wine competitions in Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, China and the U.S. Roger is one of America's first Masters of Wine.

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