European Winemakers May Have to Turn Wine into Industrial Alcohol
Coronavirus has been a devastating blow to an already struggling EU wine market.
The Covid -19 alarm brought an aura of negativity to the European wine market. Billions of bottles of unsold wine due to blockage due to Covid-19 are causing a real problem for many European winemaker. One of the possible scenarios is that this excess wine will be distilled down into industrial alchool.
Even before COVID-19, the European wine industry was facing headwinds: Brexit, Trump’s trade war, and a new deal between China and Australia had already cut into business. “The problem is that 2019 was not a good year for us, and that this year we are facing a crisis that we have never experienced before,” Alexandre They, chairman of the French-based Independent Winemakers’ Federation, told The Times UK.
European wine market drop
According to the European wine trade group Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), the representative body of 23 associations of wine producers from 12 European states – plus Switzerland and Ukraine – the crisis has included a 30 percent drop in volume and 50 percent drop in value of the EU wine market due to the COVID-19-related closures of hotels, restaurants, and cafes.
The group says 100 percent of its members report exports are down since the outbreak began in January. CEEV President Jean-Marie Barillere said that after a slight recovery in March, the drop was also felt in retail, reinforcing the negative trend of the wine market.
Eric Andrieu—a French Member of the European Parliament—has said that Europe as a whole may have about one billion liters of wine that won’t be able to be sold. And making matters worse, another harvest is coming up relatively quickly, meaning tanks and storage space need to be emptied to make room before the new grapes are picked.
A proposal for the European wine market
The Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (Ceev), has developed the “Wine package”. It is a “package” of measures requested in Brussels – including first of all the subsidized VAT proposal and the request to release EU funds – to face and overcome the Covid-19 emergency.
Barillere also stated, “’In the short term, we need to consider that the reduced wine sales and the high level of wine stocks may provoke problems in the normal balance of the wine market.” So the CEEV asked that steps be taken to deal with that issue.
Wine for the production of hydroalcoholic gel
However, if all else fails, wineries will be forced to result to “crisis distillation”—a decision that actually needs EU government approval to move forward.
Distillation is an alternative, certainly less remunerative than the sale of wine, but one which will allow wine growers to get by and to be able to also harvest in 2020
Andrieu was quoted as saying by The Drinks Business. “What is more, the alcohol produced can be used in many sectors, for example for the manufacture of hydroalcoholic gel.”
If it comes to distilling, Andrieu reportedly proposed French winemakers should be paid 80 cents per liter for their excess wine.