Virus impact on wine

Topics Coronavirus | WHO | Wine

The topic of the day is coronavirus. It is impacting every aspect of our existence, so let’s look at how it impacts something I write about every fortnight: wine.

As we speak, the WHO has declared coronavirus a pandemic infection, and the government of India has suspended all visas from overseas and instituted an unprecedented level of checking at airports. Global stock markets have tanked, and crude oil prices are seeking a 20-year low at $30-35 per barrel — down from almost double that not so long ago.

All economies will be adversely affected: production, sales, supply chains, earnings, investments, consumption, travel, entertainment, services, revenues, taxes — the list is endless. If a vaccine is not found soon and the virus continues to spread for more than another three months, the world may go into recession.

Travel restrictions and the fear of infection in public spaces have already hit the travel and hospitality industry hard: hotel bookings are down 80 to 90 per cent against last February-March, and the F&B business in restaurants is 50 per cent below previous levels. This in turn will drive prices downwards as the travel and accommodation industries have offerings (seats and rooms) that are “fungible”: once the day is done, that particular item is never again available.

Naturally, offtake of both foodstuffs and beverages will take a hit as hotels and restaurants reduce inventories and rationalise staff and services. Already, the virus has led to the cancellation or postponement of all fairs and exhibitions scheduled in Europe this spring/summer: the list runs into several hundred events.

Diageo, the largest alcoholic beverage company in the world, estimates that the loss in its fiscal year ending June 2020 would be between $300 million and $420 million — but noted that the situation may change.

Although a relatively new winery (only 30 years old), Roda has garnered a solid reputation for quality and innovation: it practises sustainable viticulture in its 120 hectares of vineyards and invests a significant amount annually in R&D
Wine companies and wine exporting countries with significant past business in China will be particularly hard-hit: Torres (Spain) is said to have experienced an 80 per cent decline in sales in February, while some Australian wineries have experienced a 90 per cent drop! In India, the impact on wine will mirror the declining business of hotels and restaurants, although with more people working from and staying at home, retail sales may actually pick up some of the slack.

In any case, with supply chains from overseas producers getting affected, it may be useful for people to stock up on their favourite tipple — who knows when supplies of particular wines will not get replenished?

Wines I’ve been drinking: In all this hullabaloo, The Wine Connoisseurs Bangalore went ahead on Wednesday evening at Fava in UB City for a wine dinner, coronavirus be damned.

Among other wines we sampled the Rioja Roda Reserva 2015 from Bodegas Roda, an iconic producer from the Rioja wine region in northern Spain. Although a relatively new winery (only 30 years old), Roda has garnered a solid reputation for quality and innovation: it practises sustainable viticulture in its 120 hectares of vineyards and invests a significant amount annually in R&D.

Roda (91 points from Robert Parker — Rs 6,259 in Bengaluru) is made exclusively from 30-year-old vines. It’s a blend of 86 per cent Tempranillo (the balance being Garnacha and Graciano), and went through both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in oak vats and barrels before spending 14 months aging in French oak casks.

The wine had a deep fruity aroma (hints of cherries and spice), a medium+ body with fine tannins, and a lingering aftertaste. A good representation of a little-known grape.

As the Spanish say, Salud!

Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant



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