The Italian wine industry is one of many to feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis: exports to China, which accounted for 100 million euro last year, were down early in the year as that country battled the virus, in addition to other economic uncertainties such the US’s threat of 100% tariffs on European imports, including Italian wine (eventually suspended) and Brexit-induced reduction in sales to the UK. Now, as Spring would normally harken the start of tourist season, wineries are missing out on their usual tourism and direct sales from drive-by traffic.
An upsurge in solidarity for winemakers is being demonstrated by an increase in direct sales by email or on e-commerces as loyal customers are asking local producers how they can help.
“We sent out a newsletter announcing free global shipping and have been overwhelmed by the response. It’s not just the volume of orders but all of the heartfelt messages of support and love we’ve received,” says Mary Shea, from Querceto di Castellina. “Many of our clients have visited the estate and gotten to know us personally; as an act of support, some didn’t even use the promo code and paid for the shipping, which was incredibly kind and certainly unexpected.”
Shannon Fioravanti, of the Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina Wine Club, also mentioned that they have “had some really amazing responses from clients offering to support us any way they can,” while their restaurant and wine bar are closed, adding that this outpouring of solidarity is absolutely humbling. Their Spring box can be ordered as a one-time gift or in the long term, with shipping available worldwide.
We’ve also observed numerous creative uses of digital means in the industry: some wineries, wine merchants and wine influencers have found new ways to stay in touch with consumers. From home delivery to special offers that include virtual one-to-one visits, wine sales continue online or by email, new hashtags make it social, and some wineries are even giving back by donating to hospitals with the profit they make.
Wine for sale with donation to hospitals
Cantina Social, the Instagram channel with over 94k followers, has launched the #iorestoincantina hashtag and project. They’ve reached out to wineries who are making special boxes of wine available on a price list on the group’s website, starting at 60 euro for a case of six wines shipped directly from the producer, including a 10 per cent donation to the winemaker’s local hospital or to Italy’s Civil Protection Department. Additional wineries and an English translation will be available soon.
Tannico for charity
Italy’s largest online wine retailer, Tannico, has created a special selection of almost 300 wines for charity; one euro from each sale will be donated to the Sacco hospital in Milan. Winemakers Cà Maiol, Ca’ del Bosco, Cantine Ferrari, Cantine Pellegrino 1880, Casa Rojo, Contadi Castaldi, Feudi di San Gregorio, Frescobaldi, Hofstätter, Kettmeir, Lamole, Masciarelli, Mesa, Moët Hennessy, San Leonardo, Santa Margherita, Tasca d’Almerita and Tommasi have contributed, and shipping in Italy is free.
Andrà tutto bene
Friulian winemaker Zorzettig has created a special edition of their Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso called Andrà tutto bene, the slogan of hope adopted in Italy and around the world. The slogan is written in eight languages, a lucky number in Chinese and reference to where the emergency began. 720 bottles are available with proceeds going to the intensive therapy unit at the Santa Maria della Misericordia university hospital in Udine. Bottles cost 35 euro and can be ordered directly from the producer by email at email@example.com or purchased online at Tannico.it.
Inserrata, a family-run organic farm near San Miniato in Tuscany, is donating all profits from the sale of its 100 per cent Sangiovese rosato “Inebriante” (with soft-touch, very artistic labels) to the Italian Red Cross. Transactions take place on the winemaker’s website.
Montelvini, producer of Asolo Prosecco in the Veneto, is contributing profits from online sales through the AirWns platform to a campaign promoted by the Assindustria Venetocentro in favour of hospitals in Treviso and Padova. When the wine arrives in 24-48 hours, customers are invited to a virtual aperitivo in partnership with one of ten Italian food and wine influencers from different parts of Italy, who will present the typical foods served in their region’s aperitivo.
Pontassieve-based group Ruffino has opened a Go Fund Me campaign to support hospitals in the Veneto; with a 500k euro goal, the company has pledged to double every euro donated. The firm has always made a direct donation so that the Tuscany Region can purchase personal protection equipment for the innovative “Local Services – Covid-19 Emergency” project, which provides assistance to the medics who conduct daily home visits, thereby relieving some of the burden from the region’s hospitals by caring for fragile patients in their own homes.
Milano Wine Week for Bergamo
Even major wine events are getting involved in helping out: Milano Wine Week, whose third edition will take place from October 3rd to 11th 2020, has launched a fundraising campaign on Go Fund Me to support two hospitals in the Bergamo area – Policlinico San Pietro in Ponte San Pietro and Policlinico San Marco in Zingonia. They have also instituted a digital communication campaign to celebrate what Italy brings to the world: quality, taste, territory, supply chain, research, craftsmanship, with the hashtag #shareitalianexcellence and #shareitalianwine.
Vino 75 for Careggi
Florence startup Vino.75 is donating part of their online sales to the main local hospital of Careggi. Wine is available for delivery within Italy.
Wine delivery in Florence
A fast and easy way to support the wine industry and local businesses is to order home delivery. Local independent bookshop and café Todo Modo becomes “Todo Domo”, offering the essential combination of books and wine to your door. They have also teamed up with S. Forno of Il Santo Bevitore for fresh bread and beautiful cakes. Order by email with a screenshot or title of the book you’d like: firstname.lastname@example.org – details (in Italian) in this post on Instagram.
You can’t have an aperitivo by the Ponte Vecchio right now, but Le Volpi e l’Uva delivers 12 bottles at a time, if you need to stock up. Sommelier Stefano Bruni of Enoteca Fiorentina (in borgo Ognissanti) has developed special surprise six-bottle boxes with wines of his choice and promotional prices; they offer free delivery in Florence or shipping with a small cost within Italy. See their Facebook post (in Italian) for details. Originating from the same street and just a few doors down, Carmela from Vino al Vino Firenze is delivering locally in Florence – you can email her at email@example.com and you’ll recognize Cosimo’s friendly face (from afar) as he personally delivers your order.
Finally, we spoke with a representative from app Winelivery, which has seen an almost 200 per cent upsurge in use. Available in 11 Italian cities, including Florence and Prato, they have been co-opting numerous wineries in the past few weeks as stores have been closed. Thanks to local warehousing, they can deliver a wide variety of wine, beer and liquor same-day, free for orders over 24 euro. A special bonus: wine is delivered at the correct drinking temperature.
Purchasing and sharing wine virtually
In the Tuscan Maremma, Relais Acquaviva is one of many wineries we’ve noticed who are activating virtual wine tastings, but this one adds a personal spin on the experience. With the purchase of a case of five wines and a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil on their website, you can book an hour-long, one-to-one chat with the owner on Zoom. The case costs 77 euro, including shipping in Italy, and you can also add the estate’s jam, pasta or honey to your package.
Similarly, Movimento Turismo Vino Toscana has launched #iostappoacasa, a hashtag for winemakers and consumers to share their experiences, as well as a web page that lists sales opportunities from member wineries. Some 40 wineries are listed on their website, some of which are small and don’t have e-commerces but can handle orders by email or phone. A gesture of solidarity for small Tuscan winemakers, an opportunity to maybe get to know a new cantina and there’s also the possibility to win a gift pack of wine by posting the most original photo with the project’s hashtag.
Continuing on Instagram, Wine Marketing Italia launched the channel and hashtag @stappatincasa right away on March 10, encouraging people to share Instagram videos of what they’re drinking.
Meet up with us in “Drinking together” on #winewednesday
In a recent online chat with sommelier Filippo Bartolotta (part of our TF Together series) we observed that people are finding wine to be a useful outlet at this time. Not necessarily to get drunk, but as something to look forward to at the end of a stressful day, perhaps by opening a better bottle than we’d normally open, or to have a small online celebration with friends.
The Florentine has always been a major supporter of the local food and wine scene, and a promoter of responsible drinking through two years of The Wine Talks with Ruffino. Our staff, myself included, are personally interested in discovering new wineries and improving our knowledge of wine. During coronavirus lockdown, we’re sharing this passion every “Wine Wednesday” through online “drinking together” chats. So stock up through the resources here, and tag @theflorentine in your Instagram stories with your latest vinous discoveries!
Let us know in the comments if you’ve come across any other innovative ways that wineries are addressing the current crisis, or simply if you have found this article useful.