surinenglish

Mostly losers

The losers in the coronavirus epidemic are those unfortunate enough not to be politicians, civil servants or the comfortably-off. The wine trade, in all its shapes and sizes, regrettably will come out as a big loser.

Starting at the bottom - or the top, depending how you rate such matters - most bodegas have their cellars stocked with the wine from last year's harvest that has not yet been sold.

Assuming the sun continues to shine, there will be a 2020 harvest from July on, so where is that wine going to be stored? If this year's vintage is better than last year's, there is even talk of tipping the 2019 down the drain.

The other option of course is not to make any wine this year, and let the grapes rot on the vine. That means no income for the winery until this thing is over, but at least wine is not a spoiling asset, and is quite capable of sitting around in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks for years to come.

A sobering fact: Many bodegas in every winemaking country rely on visitors and on-site sales for much-needed income, and this has vanished.

Wine retailers and restaurants have it even worse. They are sitting on stocks that, in many cases, can be worth hundreds of thousands of euros.

Some, in the knowledge they cannot keep their dining rooms open, have been selling off the contents of their cellars. Perhaps this is a short-term way of obtaining vital cash, but the final conclusion will depend on the duration of the emergency.

Many restaurants will close for ever, and, once the all-clear is sounded, new ones will spring up.

Rather like a devastating forest fire: everything except the biggest trees is destroyed, but it is not long before the green shoots start pushing through.