Demand for wine is up nationwide, with consumers stocking up on bottles to help get them through the stress of the pandemic and endless hours on the couch. On the other side of the supply chain, vines are just starting to come out of dormancy with the start of spring. Agriculture is considered an “essential service” and winemaking is no exception. However, many wineries are struggling to make ends meet.
Wine is flying off the shelves in grocery stores, but wineries too small to be sold there are left in the dust. Grocery stores purchase huge amounts of mass-produced wine at very cheap prices to make the most profit, most of which comes from just a handful of wine conglomerates like E & J Gallo. Most smaller wineries sell their wine through tasting rooms, bars and restaurants, all of which have been impacted by the shutdown.
Regardless of your wine budget, there are a number of things you can do from home to aid small wineries that are struggling and ensure the dollars you are spending are doing some good.
- Buy directly from small wineries
With in-person sales all but eliminated, wineries are turning to online sales to bolster their business. Most wineries are also offering significant discounts on wine and shipping, making this a great time to shop online. Sonoma County Vintners has an extensive list of wineries offering discounts and promotions during the quarantine.
This is also a great time to sign up for club wine memberships from your favorite wineries if you haven’t already. This is a meaningful way to show your ongoing support for wineries during what is sure to be a challenging time ahead.
If you’re looking to score some rare wines, mark your calendar for some unprecedented wine cellar library sales happening in the coming weeks. Here, you will have the opportunity to purchase exclusive, highly-valuable bottles normally only available directly from wineries. You can find information on Napa Valley Vintners upcoming library sale here.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, visiting a local wine shop is also a great option if you’re looking for some more guidance on what wines to buy. Local wine shops generally stock wines from small, local wineries and can offer some awesome recommendations.
- Buy a bottle to pair with your takeout meal
Restaurants nationwide are opening up their wine cellars to give customers the opportunity to purchase bottles at discounted prices to help bring in some income. This gives consumers the fun opportunity to enjoy some exclusive wines at home that aren’t available in stores as well as supporting wineries that sell primarily through restaurants. Most states have relaxed alcohol laws, allowing you to pick up a bottle of wine or other alcoholic beverage from your favorite restaurant along with your takeout meal. Restaurants like The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa are specifically curating wines to pair with each night’s menu, or you can ask the sommelier for recommendations.
- Stay engaged with local wineries online
Follow your favorite wineries on Instagram, Facebook and other social media pages and engage with their posts to give them a boost. You can also share what you are drinking and loving on your own social media pages. Encourage your friends and followers to support small wineries and other small businesses to make sure we all stay afloat through the quarantine. Many wineries have a newsletter or email list that you can sign up for, which is a great way to stay up to date on how they are adapting to the pandemic.
- Follow a winery’s virtual tasting
In lieu of in-person tastings, many wineries have resorted to setting up online virtual tastings to stay engaged with their customers and attract some new ones. You can follow a virtual tasting on Instagram, Facebook Live and Zoom. This is a great opportunity to get to know winemakers, ask questions and learn about the winemaking process as you would during a winery visit.
You can find a list of wineries offering virtual tastings here.
- Plan a virtual wine tasting with friends
Add some structure to your virtual happy hour by planning a wine tasting with friends. Have everyone purchase the same bottles and open them together on video chat. If you don’t want to pick out your own wine, you can order a wine box like this one from Cellar Angels, which includes a variety of wineries and varietals. Practice tasting and rating the wine with a wine tasting scorecard like this one from Centsational Style.
If you want to do something with a little less planning ahead, have a “show-and-tell” of everyone’s favorite local wine. This is a great way to learn about wines from different regions as well as find new wines to try.