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3 Major Challenges For Wine In 2020, & What You Can Do About Them

January 9, 2020

Original content: Forbes
By Cathy Huyghe Contributor

If you’re a wine lover, and if you’re heads-up about current events and world news, then the New Year hasn’t been very celebratory so far. The bad news seems overwhelming and far-reaching, between devastating fires in Australia to bureaucrat types in Washington and Europe debating tariffs and deciding the fate of so many wine businesses we love.

It seems overwhelming, partly because it feels so out of our control.

I’d argue that, despite the large-scale ramifications of current events, there are things that individual wine lovers can do – to help the situation in a bigger, systemic way, and also to help alleviate our sense as individuals of helplessness and overwhelm.

Here, briefly, is a recap of three issues impacting the community from the US to Australia to (soberly curious) wine enthusiasts everywhere. The recaps are followed by suggestions for what each of us can do to respond actively and directly.

Proposed Tariffs on European Wines

The wine community in the US is chest-deep in the emotional turmoil of the US Trade Representative’s proposed tariffs, which threaten to impose taxes of up to 100% on wine (and a long list of other food items) that are imported from the European Union.

For consumers, the tariffs could mean drastically increased prices and severely limited access to wines that we know and love. For some wine businesses, particularly those who import wine from countries like France and Italy, the tariffs could mean closing their doors for good.

What you could do about it: Take action, namely in the form of submitting your comment to the US Trade Representative. The article I wrote about the situation was the most-shared post I’ve ever done for Forbes, and there’s still time for wine lovers – consumers and the trade alike – to be heard. The comment period is open until January 13.

Bushfires in Australia

The wine community globally is alert to the bushfires that are blazing across Australia. The loss of life, both human and animal, and the utter devastation of land across the country is unprecedented; the persistent heat and drought of intensifying climate change conditions exacerbates the fires and is expected to worsen in the near future.

The impact of the bushfires on the Australian wine industry was contextualized by Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark in a statement released this week. Clark said that wineries and vineyards in some regions in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have suffered devastating damage.

What you could do about it: There’s no sugar-coating the devastation of the fires. Full stop. However, also keep the wine-specific situation in perspective. Clark pointed out, for example, that most of the fires have been in heavily forested areas or National Parks, and recent fire maps suggest that a maximum of around 1500 hectares of vineyards fall within the fire affected regions to date. That accounts for about one percent of Australia’s total vineyard area; not all of those vineyards were damaged by the fires.

Nonetheless, there will be implications for the wine industry and assumptions (however incorrect or unscientific) about issues like smoke taint on the upcoming harvest. Keep in mind, also, that the impact of the fires extends to growers who produce the grapes. The recovery for them will be just as long or longer, since loss of vineyards or melted equipment is a years-long process of recovery, with no income in the meantime.

What you can do is actively support Australian wineries, especially in those regions that have been affected by the bushfires. Ask for the wines. Buy the wines, both at retailers and restaurants. Up the profile, and keep the Australian industry front of mind.

This link also provides a detailed list of resources that are coordinating donations.

Dry January and the Sober Curious Movement

The “sober curious” movement has matured well beyond the stage of a passing fad. At no time is this more apparent than the first month of the year, when consumers around the world experiment with “Dry January” and take the month off of drinking alcohol of any sort.

Some consumers try it out and quit after a few days. Others try it out and enjoy the benefits so much that they never stop. In either case, the message has registered that alcohol – including wine – is problematic and possibly worth staying away from.

What you could do about it: If you have even a hunch that you might be consuming too much alcohol, then by all means explore the principles behind Dry January, which started in 2013 and gained steam under Alcohol Change UK. Start with the organization’s Research Hub for more information.

Otherwise, consider for yourself the difference between “sober curious” and being more mindful around consuming alcohol. I’ve written an opinion piece, published on a wine community website called A Balanced Glass, about what I think is missing from the sober curious movement. In a nutshell? What’s missing, I think, is a place for mindful consumption of a beverage that has long delivered joy, beauty and pleasure. Completely removing wine from our lives, in January and beyond, is an extreme response for most healthy adults who otherwise enjoy the beverage. Moderating consumption, mindfully, is both more rational and more deliberate of a response.

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