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How COVID-19 Impacts Wine

Robert Whitley on

Every day over the past couple of weeks, my inbox has been filled with notifications on winery tasting-room closures and offers of free shipping and curbside pickup for those of us who still need our daily wine fix.

The wine industry is hurting, along with the rest of the U.S. economy, as businesses struggle to cope with operating restrictions made necessary by the spread of COVID-19. The greatest impact will no doubt be visited upon boutique producers that cater to the on-premise market, meaning restaurants, which are largely shuttered throughout the nation.

But tasting-room closures are a big deal, too. For many wineries, they are an important profit center because wines can be sold at retail without any middlemen. And they provide daily cash flow.

Of equal concern are the hardships inflicted on tasting-room employees who've been laid off during the crisis.

"These are hourly employees, and most of them live paycheck to paycheck," Napa Valley winemaker Joel Aiken told me in a recent conversation.

On the bright side, in my almost daily trips to the grocery store in search of basic necessities, I see shopping carts loaded to the brim with wine and all manner of other adult beverages. It gives me a sense of relief. If anything, wine consumption might be up. The wine industry is going to be all right.


Best Value

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Bianchi 2019 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.99) -- Malbec is still Argentina's greatest contribution to the world of wine, and the Bianchi family does malbec extremely well. The 2019 is most impressive at this price point. It delivers a bold red that is rich and layered on the palate, showing ripe, juicy black fruits and a subtle hint of wood that provides additional structure and an inviting spice note. Rating: 90.

Georges Duboeuf 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, France ($9.99) -- The 2019 nouveau from Duboeuf, the so-called first wine of the harvest, is everything nouveau was meant to be: grapey, easy, simple and straightforward. A soft, supple fruit bomb won't tax either the palate or the wallet. Nouveau tends toward the floral, and this one does just that. It's an awesome spring and summer picnic wine, especially when served slightly chilled on a warm day. Rating: 87.


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