The Bourgogne Wine Sector Stands Ready — New Working Practices on Estates to Face the Health Crisis

Since France has ground to a near-halt under Covid-19 confinement measures, growers and négociants in Bourgogne have continued to work, introducing some ingenuity. This is essential because the vines continue to grow; there is work to be done in the cellar, and because one also has to think about when normal business resumes. In Bourgogne, growers and négociants are adhering to strict safe distancing measures both in the vines and the winery.

Activity accelerating in the vines

The hashtag #LaVigneContinue exists for a good reason: Nature cannot be confined! Especially in the springtime, when the sap rises, and the buds emerge from their downy cocoons. In each plot, there is work to be done. The cuttings must be cleared after pruning, trellising must be repaired, the canes need tying up, the ground needs plowing. After budburst, the excess buds and suckers will need to be removed.

Growers and négociants in Bourgogne are continuing to work as far as possible and adapting to the situation. Nicolas Rossignol, in Gevrey-Chambertin, has reorganized his team: “I have asked everyone to use their personal vehicle to get around. In the vines, it is one to a plot, or else we leave two or three rows between us (2 to 3m) if we have to work in the same place. In addition to tying up and fixing trellising, we are also starting to plow. I have two tractors, so each driver has their own.”

And for a touch of local ingenuity, he reveals that instead of using commercial hand-sanitizer, he dug out some of the “head” distillation liquid from a batch of marc de Bourgogne. “It’s around 80% alcohol, so it’s ideal for disinfecting hands and equipment. In the same vein, we no longer eat together. Since we’ve had fine weather, everyone has lunch outside. You just have to go one at a time into the kitchen to reheat your dish.”

There are some unexpected obstacles to manage, such as hiring a seasonal worker to make up for the absence of an employee who has to stay at home to look after children while the schools are closed.

In wineries that have larger teams of staff, managers have also had to adapt. With 10 or more employees, flexibility is the order of the day. Working times are staggered to avoid encountering coworkers, and those who are partially occupied looking after children come into work when they can, including on weekends. Nicolas Rossignol concludes: “The growth cycle has begun, although the cold which came at the start of last week slowed it a little. But overall, we are working at the same pace as usual.”

Complex adaptation for shipments

During this season, activity in the cellar is calmer. The wines are in the middle of aging, and the main task is topping up barrels. This only usually requires one person. Other lower-priority tasks can wait.

The area of bottling, labeling, and shipping poses another set of challenges. Some companies are carrying on, anticipating that others will resume activity a fortnight from now. But whatever the task, managers are attentive to maintaining safe distances between employees, and respecting all the recommendations from the Ministry of Health. The essential thing is looking after the health of staff.

On the commercial front, there are fewer orders than usual. Some transporters continue to make deliveries, while certain international orders have been put on one side, ready to go as soon as international transport resumes.

“We know the current situation is only temporary, and we are ready to respond to increased demand as soon as it comes,” said Louis-Fabrice Latour, President of the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) and CEO of the Louis Latour wine house. “Managers of wineries and estates are keeping a close eye on when normal production activity can resume, whilst ensuring the health and safety of all concerned.”

On behalf of the whole wine sector, he added: “We are aware of all the efforts being made, on all levels, for France to emerge from this health crisis as quickly and in the best shape possible. We will contribute to this return to normal. We are also greatly appreciative of all of those who are taking care of us and our families.”

Global Wine Experts Describe Impact of Turbulence Ahead

Wine Intelligence’s global expert network on the impact of Coronavirus: ‘Christmas trading’ in Italian supermarkets amid a gloomy outlook, calm in Brazil and South Africa, fewer Chinese tourists in Australia, silver linings in South Korea, growing concern in the UK and US

How are consumers behaving in your market?

AUSTRALIA: The most noticeable element is that we have seen declining cellar door sales as the normal influx of Chinese tourists during Spring Festival failed to appear. So far the on-premise sales in Australia seem to be holding up.

BRAZIL: Compared to Europe, Brazilians seem to be less scared. Carnival was 2 weeks ago and there hasn’t been much of an impact. Regular people don’t seem to be changing habits, apart from a few people wearing masks on the streets. Some companies are taking measures to isolate employees – McKinsey, for instance, have shut down their offices in São Paulo, because their neighboring office had one suspected case.

ITALY: The first and most striking event was the assault on supermarkets by people filling their trolleys with pasta, sauces, mineral water, and other goods for fear of being out of stock. The director of an important Italian wine & spirits group, who had recently spoken to the manager of a retail chain, confirmed to me how in recent weeks the points of sale of large retailers have made a turnover close to that of Christmas. For the tourism industry, the crisis period started two weeks ago, with an average of 80% of cancellations (especially of foreign tourists), which has led many hotels to close temporarily. More generally, the on-trade channel is now beginning to suffer, both due to the reduction of customers and as a result of government measures to discourage too close socialization opportunities (in quarantined areas the on-trade premises must close the shutters at 6 pm).

SOUTH AFRICA: Probably too early to tell, but so far it doesn’t seem as if there is a major change. I am hearing that wine tourism is suffering a bit, which will obviously impact on cellar door wine sales. We are a bit behind the curve and possibly the fact that it’s summer has also helped.

SOUTH KOREA: We know the damage to consumer confidence is big. But it is not easy to say how much right now. People are avoiding seeing each other face to face, so socializing is not really happening. Similarly, face to face business meetings are not happening – salespeople are not so welcome at their clients’ bars, restaurants or shops. There are not many people on the streets – not many cars either.

SPAIN: So far, everything seems the same. Masks were bought long ago but people haven´t gone in for the “toilet paper craze” as in other places.

USA: Restaurants and bars are already feeling the impact as people are going out less. On the whole, the on-premise will take a much bigger hit. People are already eating out and going out to bars less. On the other hand, I could see this helping online ordering services like Drizly and Minibar and in food, Grubhub and Delivery.com, as people stay in more and order in more. I saw a post on Facebook recently that someone had shared about Postmates advertising a “no-touch” service or something to that degree to further allay any concerns.

We’re yet to see event cancellations, but that could be just a matter of time. The big issue in a market like Las Vegas is that in addition to both domestic and international tourists, we rely heavily on delegates who attend the many large-scale conferences here – Linda Crisman, Regional Manager Western USA, Jackson Family Wines

UK: On the surface, it feels like there isn’t much dramatic change. London’s Tube is still packed at rush hour, and hardly anyone seems to be wearing masks. We’re hearing from on-premise that bookings are down on normal for the time of year, and events businesses are getting particularly nervous as clients are deferring decisions until the last minute. The news seems to move so fast; it feels a lot easier to defer rather than decide.

What are your predictions for the wine category for the remainder of 2020?

AUSTRALIA: The effects will last long after the virus has peaked – consumers will be spending more cautiously both domestically and in key export markets. The tourism business is still dealing with the after-effects of the fires, so it will be a while before we see a return to normal. From the export point of view we are hoping that some of the excess supply in China will be sold through towards the Mid-Autumn Festival period. Vintage forecasts from ABARES (national commodity forecaster) is predicting a below-average vintage size which will help offset the fall in demand.

ITALY: It will be the most difficult period since the methanol scandal in 1985. Our inbound tourism industry has done so well in the past few years that it has reversed the long term trend of consumption decline in the domestic market – we will have to wait a while for international tourist numbers to recover. I am sure that once the emergency is resolved, perhaps with the summer season, the domestic Italian consumer will resume their love story with the aperitifs and the various socialization occasions. Until then, I foresee some difficulties for wine businesses, especially small ones, which have focused on an important part of their sales on the cellar door and have grown reliant on international tourists.

SPAIN: We´ve still to see the worst effects but the summer will approach fast and here it will help reduce conditions that favor contagion. The big question will be whether the tourists show up in their normal numbers.

SOUTH AFRICA: I think the major global grocery retail businesses will be extremely cautious in their ordering pattern against the current scenario. In the local market, we may see some sales lost from people not attending large gatherings/restaurants etc as much, and we expect the conference industry to take a hit. Wine tourism will take a while to recover because leisure trips to South Africa are often planned a long way in advance, and we may not see the full extent of the effect for a year or more.

SOUTH KOREA: Companies in the sector are planning on 20-30% declines in their sales vs their original plan for the year. People are not going to the shops – they prefer on-line shopping. In Korea, we cannot sell wine online yet, but we understand that the government will allow online sales of wine temporarily, maybe as soon as April – it will only be click-and-collect, not full delivery, at least not yet. But it is a good start. I expect that, sooner or later, maybe within the next couple of years, the online wine market will be opened up.

UK: So far the government is resisting imposing restrictions on the public, but this will change soon. We understand the medical experts are expecting the peak of infections in the UK in about 6-8 weeks’ time, at which point restrictions may start to be lifted. Supermarkets will do just fine, but it’s the on-premise, hotels and events companies which will have a hole in their revenues – somewhere around 15% of their annual sales – which won’t be made up in this calendar year.

We haven’t seen anything change yet from a retail sales perspective as yet, but we have already seen a drop off in Travel Retail (ferries, airports). Supply has been rather lumpy as shipping lines have had to adapt their schedules to China and Singapore port closures. Looking ahead I’d say that the [UK] On Trade is in for a tough time, clearly festival volumes are up in the air and in retail, I’d expect local small stores to do well – Simon Lawson, General Manager, Casella Family Brands (Europe) Ltd, UK.

USA: The big unanswered question for Americans is how bit the outbreak will get. We are losing faith in the government response – it seems very slow and complacent, and who knows how many confirmed cases we will have when the virus testing gets to a sensible number [estimated at <3,000 tests completed as of 9 March]. When events like Indian Wells [major tennis tournament in California] are canceled, it feels like we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Source:  Wine Intelligence

Wine in a can is a robust trend and not a short-term fad

With the traditional wine market in the US growing at an increasingly slow pace, successful wineries 10 years from now will be those that have adapted to a different consumer with different values.  Wine in a can is no new thing; it was first seen in World War 1 when the French army had their wine rations delivered this way.

WICresearch.com has done an in-depth study of the drivers that are affecting the boom in the wine-in-can market and it is predicted that the trend will continue to grow as it has done exponentially in its infancy.  The most important factors to consumers when it comes to wine-in-can are taste, quality and value, followed by convenience, portability and fun.  From 2017-2108 the wine-in-can market grew by 43%.  It is a market that cannot be ignored as the industry needs new growth places.

There are 6 main drivers that are promoting the expansion of wine-in-can, as follows:

Convenience

This is the most obvious benefit and relates to the carrying, opening and finishing of the product.  One is able take a can where it is illegal or inconvenient to bring a bottle or any glass.  The single-serve size also allows for zero waste of the contents, and it removes the need for traditional wine paraphernalia: foil cutters, corks screws. Under the convenience banner, the wine vending machine is also a trend that is starting to gain traction, certainly opening new markets in terms of novelty and availability.

Occasion expansion

This is based on both location and event. Location involves places where taking a bottle of wine is not suitable nor practical: boats, beach, swimming pools.  Event expansion is where offering a single-serve beverage is desirable e.g.BBQ, picnic.

It is interesting that wine-in-can drivers such as these are not cannibalizing the existing market with its meagre growth of 1-4% but it is rather creating an extension of markets or even new markets and thus creating strong double-digit growth.

Sustainability and cost savings

Aluminum is 100% recyclable and so the environmental footprint is greatly reduced, and the product attracts an eco-friendly consumer who values sustainability.  Research has shown that 51% of Millennials check the packaging before purchase for sustainability claims.

 Facts:

  • Sustainable products grew 4x the rate of non-sustainable products (Nielsen)
  •  Consumers are willing to pay 15% more for sustainable packaging (McKinsey)
  • 66% of consumers will pay more for sustainable brands (Nielsen)

Packaging in aluminum cans also produces a saving of 15-20% with some manufacturers suggesting 40% due to efficiency of packing and transport, lack of breakage, and lighter weight.  Therefore, carbon emissions for transportation are also lower. Also, savings occur in establishments serving wine by the glass, as there is total accuracy over the serving size with no shrinkage.

Portion control and variety

Apart from the benefit of not having to open a whole bottle when you would like to enjoy a glass, there is also no issue of dealing with unfinished wine.  The wine-in-can movement is very popular with restaurants that have less waste and leftover wine, or the problem of customers wanting to cork their bottle to take it home which is illegal in many parts of the world.

Due to the small serving, wine drinkers can enjoy different varieties of wine with different courses, instead of a full bottle of the same wine.

Visual image and branding

An aluminum can has a 360-degree label rather than just a front and a back.  It gives the product a cooler, more photographable, Instagrammable look.

“With 64% of consumers trying a new [wine] product simply because the package catches their eye, packaging design is one of the most underappreciated marketing levers” (Freeman, 2016).

Designers can go so far as to make the packaging glow in the dark.

Quality

“You actually have a really stable environment in a can…There’s no UV penetration or oxygen exchange like there would be through a cork and glass bottle” (Drinks News, 2018).

For still and sparkling wine, the integrity of the product can easily be preserved.  The dark, oxygen-free environment for still wine is ideal while for sparkling, the effervescence is contained in a small space.

There is ongoing research for different types of cans, linings and filling systems to ensure further integrity of the product as well as preserving its future life which is, as yet, unproven.

It is interesting to note that the wine-in-can purchase is not affected by gender, education nor generational group.  There is also no difference in self-reported wine knowledge i.e. consumers with a high level of wine knowledge are just as likely to buy wine in cans.

In a 2019 a blind taste test of wine-in-can versus wine-in-bottle was conducted. The identical wine from the same winery in both packaging formats was poured.  There were 4 different varietals and the experiment was done in 2 different locations.  51.1% said they either preferred the wine-in-can or that they could tell no difference between the two.

Wine-in-can is a growing market and innovation and interesting marketing tools are emerging every day.  It will be a very interesting space to watch over the next decade.

WICresearch.com

Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright
Cape Wine Master

 

Riedel Launches “Winewings”

How it all started

In Summer 2018, in the hot and sunny Tyrolean Alps, Georg Riedel found himself asked by a customer to create “the ultimate glass” for the “King of Grapes”– Cabernet Sauvignon – a glass which would become the inspiration for a new glassware collection, Riedel Winewings.

For Georg, the challenge was how to begin research for this new glass. It helped that he had long loved the specific wine for which he had been commissioned to design the glass. With passion and enthusiasm, and with a coffee in hand, Georg made a start. Sketching the old fashioned way, he aimed to create a new shape, something revolutionary and supremely functional, a shape never seen before which, while respecting the 2,000-year-old art of glass-blowing, would eschew the egg-shape bowl developed by Claus Riedel and challenge the perception of how a modern functional wine glass should be.

Slowly, a new shape emerged: A flat-bottomed glass, wide and reminiscent of the wing of an aircraft, complete with winglets. As a new idea formed, Georg spent more than a year experimenting, tasting, sampling, benchmarking and fine-tuning. By making changes to shape, size and rim diameter, through computer-aided design and many prototypes, what began as one glass for one grape varietal developed into seven different glasses to represent the most popular grape varietals.

Riedel Winewings was born and was about to take flight!

Why a flat bottom?

In his own words, Georg Riedel describes the evolution and ultimate functionality of Riedel Winewings: “We make our first impressions by eye when assessing our chosen wine in the glass, and then we smell before we ever taste. I chose a flat and stretched bottom, with a wing-like shape to increase the surface between wine and air, which increases the levels of evaporation and develops a greater intensity of aroma. When positioning one’s head to the glass, the nose is closer and is exposed to the wider surface of the wine. However, this alone would not fully deliver the optimal aroma of each grape variety and so, to capture the delicate layered aromas, it was necessary to curve the glass walls and to correctly calibrate the opening of each glass with its rim diameter.”

About Riedel Winewings

There are seven styles: three for red wines, three for white and one for Champagne or sparkling wines. This glass collection is designed personally by Georg Riedel. It pushing the boundaries of the conventional wine glass shape and is striking in its design and in the words of Georg Riedel is “inherently functional, helping the wines’ aromas and flavors take flight”.

As Georg Riedel says, as he launches his newest creation, “If your wine could choose a glass, it would be Riedel – and that glass would be Riedel Winewings!”

Steven Spurrier is returning to Napa for the Judgment of Napa

May 2020 Steven Spurrier and George Taber will return to Napa for the Judgment of Napa – a modern-day interpretation of the famed 1976 event with a focus on giving the public a chance to be part of the judgment. Full itinerary, video and ticket link here.

50 VIP guests paying $15,000 will have the opportunity to participate in the blind tasting curated by Masters of Wine Peter Marks and Matt Deller and sit side-by-side with the men behind the original event. 50 additional guests purchasing $1,500 tickets will be part of the reception, watching the tasting while enjoying other highly credible wines.

This special event is being put together by Angela Duerr of luxury concierge service Cultured Vine and will launch a series of one-of-a-kind experiences in Northern California wine country.