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Wine in a Time of Pandemic

I didn't want to write about COVID-19
by Curtis Phillips
March 20, 2020

I’m a production winemaker at heart. I like to write about making wine and would prefer not to discuss the current pandemic. However, if no person is an island, then certainly no winery can be. We’re all struggling with simply getting through the current crisis. I expect that even when the headlines change to the next big event, the wineries that do not return to business as usual will be the ones that turn out to be most suited to weather the next crisis.


Common Disinfectants Should Deactivate Coronavirus

I’ve been reluctant to a discuss COVID-19 (AKA Coronavirus; AKA SARS-CoV-2; AKA CV-Plague2020) directly simply because I’m not a physician, nor am I an epidemiologist. I have no expertise with the issues at hand.
I am, however, a member of the American Chemical Society. The ACS internal publication, Chemical & Engineering News had an item that I would like to share (non-members can read three articles per month). Apparently, COVID-19 should be pretty easy to deactivate on nonporous surfaces (I don’t feel comfortable saying “kill” since viruses aren’t alive in the first place), but with the caveat that this specific strain hasn’t been studied enough to know for sure. The good news is that if COVID-19 proves to be unexpectedly robust in the face of the disinfectants listed on the EPA’s list, we’re pretty sure that the news would be enough of a surprise that it would be difficult miss that discovery. I would also like to note that peracetic acid disinfectants, which are commonly used in wineries, appear to work the quickest according to the EPA.


What Wineries are Doing

I’m seeing several wineries trying different things to get through the COVID-19 crisis including curbside and/or parking lot deliveries at the winery from the tasting room. I think Easley Winery in Indiana was the first winery to notify me that they were doing this, but others including Oregon's Willamette Valley Vineyards, and the Paso Wine Country Alliance are also doing so. Trentadue Winery is offering free deliveries to customers located near the winery. Many wineries are discounting the cost of shipping.

I’m was waiting to hear of a winery that’s shipping a virtual tasting kit of several small samples of their offerings, and I expect that someone that already has the COLAs for 187ml bottles is doing just that, but Parallel Napa Valley is offering extremely clever live virtual tastings of three of their wines to small groups of customers that have Internet access, a laptop or smart TV, and FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom.  From what I understand, they are shipping a boxed version of their tasting room including the wines, tasting and food pairing notes, and their wine club information then conduct the tasting virtually once the kit arrives.

In the UK, the independent brewer BrewDog has switched over to producing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at it’s Aberdeen distillery. Other British distilleries are following suit. Likewise, French multinational luxury and alcohol behemoth LVMH has converted three of its cosmetic factories in France to the producion of hand sanitizer for distribution to French hospitals.

I like the fact that distilleries and cosmetic companies are stepping in to increase hand sanitizer production. I just don’t know if their US counterparts can act in a similar manner in anything like a timely fashion. Denatured ethanol shouldn’t subject to excise tax, but the permits for an industrial alcohol plant are different than a DSP. I recommend that any distillery consult with their lawyer to clear the appropriate regulatory hurtles before considering such an move.


We’ve Got Webinars

To help do our share, Wine Business Monthly is holding a webinar entitled: Virtual Tasting Best Practices: The Technologies, Training and Techniques Wineries are Using. The webinar will be held on March 24, 2020 at 11:00 AM. See this link to register.

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