Wine industry in change

As people shelter in place and give family members holiday Zoom greetings rather than hugging in person, the world in general and members of the wine industry in particular can’t put 2020 in their rearview mirrors fast enough.

The year started with unnecessary, vindictive tariffs on European wine imports. In effect, a tax hike on American consumers of Old World wines. Which, as certainly as night follows day, resulted in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. Lose. Lose. Brilliant strategy.

Then COVID. The effect on restaurants and bars will echo through the years. Our streets are littered with dead storefronts of establishments that could not survive necessity of limited occupancies and forced closings. Not to mention human deaths in the hundreds of thousands.

Winery direct-to-consumer sales soared. But they did not make up for tasting room, restaurant, and wine store losses. COVID hammered grape farmers, diminishing human resources needed to harvest. Meat packing plants suffer with COVID. So do wineries and vineyards.

Then came wildfires. California and Oregon wine country burned as never before. Some blamed states and wineries for not clearing brush. Problem: 85% of the fires were on federal land. If someone is to blame, the federal government is the rapscallion. Or maybe global warming and significantly higher temperatures and concomitantly less rain are villains. They are the major part of the catastrophe if you seriously think about it.

Global warming, not confined just to 2020, is another bugbear of the wine industry. Vineyard operators keep extremely precise records. There is absolutely no doubt in their minds Earth is warmer. Some have records dating back a century-plus to prove it. In Napa, warming threatens cabernet sauvignon hegemony because cab—and chardonnay—need cooler climates to be their best. Several major vineyard operators today experiment with warmer weather grapes such as tempranillo to hedge against feared future failure of their money crops.

And so it goes. Let us pray 2021 will be better. Hard to imagine how it could be worse. I pray you experience the joys of the season this season. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Festive Festivus. The winter solstice happened two days ago. Days grow longer now. Spring beckons over tomorrow’s horizon. Let us rejoice and be glad. Goodness knows we earned it this year.

Last round: I am giving up drinking wine until this thing is over. Wait, punctuation error. I am giving up. Drinking wine until this thing is over.