IT was only five months ago that the Spanish wine industry was dealt a blow in the form of a 25 per cent tariff imposed on its wines imported into America (the French and Germans were also hammered).
And in January, the sector narrowly avoided a 100 per cent tariff on all wines imported from the EU to the US. Not surprisingly, political wranglings played a major part in both instances.
But the latest impact on the sector – the coronavirus – has come completely out of the blue and had an unexpected effect on the €4.8 billion industry (figures for March 2018).
With bars, restaurants, and the majority of hotels having been ordered to close down to contain the spread of COVID19, together with the odd vineyard being quarantined (Rioja), the wine sector undoubtedly faces uncertain times ahead.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Spanish Wine and Food Association estimated that wine tourists spend around €500 a day in Spain.
The majority of these ‘vino’ visitors come from America and Canada, followed by Australia and several European countries, including the UK.
But with air travel restrictions in place, this valuable contribution to the country’s economy has taken a nose dive.
Arguably the biggest event in the drinks trade calendar, ProWein in Germany, was cancelled earlier this month, and a major annual trade testing fair, Wines from Spain, which was scheduled to take place in London on March 31, has been postponed with a new date to be set.
The London fair would have seen more than 60 leading importers and exporters present their Spanish wine portfolios to the British trade, including a selection of the latest vintages and releases available to the UK market. Some 1,000 wines from 300 wineries from across Spain would have been showcased.
Director of Wines from Spain, Fernando Muñoz, said “our priority is to act responsibly and put the safety of our exhibitors, visitors and staff first”, adding: “We also want to deliver a successful event for all. We will be working with venues and all partners to find suitable, alternative dates for the event.”
However, on the flip side, several wine retailers have reported a surge in sales as people self-quarantine and face the prospect of weeks indoors. Wine has been flying off supermarket shelves and media reports claim sales in Spain have increased by 23 per cent since the the country was officially placed in a ‘state of alarm’ on March 15.
Online merchants are also seeing an increase in orders, with Hedonism Wines among others, which distributes internationally, seeing a 60 per cent spike in online sales this month.
Food and Wines From Spain, which promotes the country’s food and wines abroad, continues to support the industry, and has launched a #CookingSpainAtHome campaign, on its Facebook page, explaining: “We would like to help you make your time at home as amazing as possible, that’s why we have launched the campaign.”
Spanish Wine Lover posted yesterday: “We cannot walk in the park, nor travel, nor meet friends for dinner but at least we still have wine, which undoubtedly helps to cope better with life under lockdown.”
Each day the group posts comments from wineries and merchants across the country.
Pintan Copas Communication works with a wine shop in Valladolid and is staging ‘virtual tasting’ on Facebook and Instagram, while devising other plans “for these days of confinement”.