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Austrian Wine & Corona: a Status Report

The COVID-19 pandemic is also having a serious impact on Austria’s wine industry. Winegrowers and retailers as well are developing a variety of strategies to cope with the situation. The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) is supporting them both domestically and internationally.

At austrianwine.com/search/wineries one can find hundreds of wineries with their order options. ©istock/Hakinmhan/AWMB

Important distribution channels at a standstill

Measures adopted by the government to contain the virus mean a breakdown of the primary distribution channels for Austrian winegrowers: the hospitality industry (including winery-owned venues such as a Heuriger or Buschenschank), events like Weinfrühling (‘wine spring’), open cellar doors, sales from the vinotheque and brick and mortar specialist shops without online sales have all ground to a halt.

In addition, because of the cancellation of wine trade fairs such as ProWein and VieVinum, growers are losing essential platforms for maintaining relationships with existing customers and acquiring new ones.

To complicate matters, the closing down of borders with neighbouring countries has created a major shortage of vineyard workers. The official agricultural initiative dielebensmittelhelfer.at (‘the food assistants’) for the placement of workers offers one solution here, as does the #ernte2020sichern (‘secure the 2020 harvest’) campaign on the weinjobs.com employment portal, where winegrowers can now place job advertisements free of charge.

The planned relaxation of restrictions starting 14 April offers hope, when business premises will open for the sale of goods on a sales floor of up to 400m2, under strict conditions, which will expand on 1 May to the opening of all shops for the sale of goods, again under strict conditions. In addition, the pickup of pre-ordered meals is permitted in the hospitality industry, provided they are not consumed on site and a distance of at least one metre between persons is maintained. This also applies to wine taverns like Heurigen and Buschenschanken.

Growing online trade, shift to home consumption

Another little ray of hope in the current situation: the retreat into one’s own four walls and the increased use of the Internet and online wine commerce. Domestic online wine retailers report increases ranging from the low double-digit percentages to threefold and even more. Increased home consumption is also suggested by the shifting habits and priorities of the Austrian population: in a recent survey by Marketagent, almost 40% of those surveyed report that they currently cook more frequently, one in three spends more time with family or partner, and one out of four now reads a book more often or listens to more music. At the same time, one in three individuals misses restaurant meals, and more than one in four miss the opportunity to have a drink at the local tavern.

Of course, it must be noted that the loss of revenue in the hospitality industry, which normally accounts for almost 56% of Austrian wine consumption, cannot be compensated for by online sales and home consumption.

Creative solutions from winegrowers & retailers

The topic of local supply is also coming to the fore again, deepening the regard for regional, family-run agricultural enterprises, as Austria’s winegrowers indeed mostly are. In addition to online sales, winegrowers and retailers develop additional creative solutions to reach their customers: cellar door sales without physical contact, deliveries in the vicinity or online tastings with wine-tasting packages sent in advance – these are just a few of the concepts with which the topic of wine is brought home to oenophiles during this time of mandated social distancing.

AWMB campaign ‘Taste the Origin’

The AWMB is currently working entirely from the home office, and is supporting the efforts of the winegrowers and retailers with their recently launched national campaign Schmecke die Herkunft (‘Taste the Origin’). The core element here is a landing page, on which interested parties can find all available information about winegrowers offering direct sales from the estate, online wine dealers and all of Austria’s winegrowing regions. Winegrowers themselves are becoming ambassadors for the campaign: conveying the distinctive character of their respective winegrowing regions via social media (Facebook and Instagram), and encouraging the public to order their wines for home delivery.

Not just Austria's winegrowers but also the AWMB team gets creative for Austrian wine.

And elsewhere in the world

Internationally, the AWMB is sending individual tasting packages to wine industry professionals and journalists who would have attended VieVinum, and organising digital tastings with sommeliers, which will continue to bring Austrian wine closer to their target groups. Read more about it here.

Restart after Corona

The prospects for a quick recovery after Corona can basically be assessed as positive: exports were stronger than ever in 2019, Austrian wine is very popular internationally, and will continue to be. At the same time, domestic wine is also the favourite of Austrian consumers. In addition, the nation’s winegrowers just happen to have highly attractive wines on hand with the 2019 vintage!

In order to activate this potential and accelerate the sales of Austrian wine as soon as possible after restrictions have been relaxed, the AWMB is developing comprehensive measures to reinforce the hospitality industry and wine tourism on the national level. In autumn 2020, a focused initiative will get underway with the heading ‘Come to the wine’. The aim here is to bundle and promote the multitude of wine events that will take place once more at this time and to encourage wine lovers to enjoy pleasurable weekends with a holiday at a winery and a visit to the Heuriger. One essential aim of all these measures will be that of boosting cellar door sales.

Simultaneously, the AWMB is currently working intensively on developing effective international activities, with different focal points tailored to the individual markets.

Links

Campaign "Taste the Origin":

Press release: Corona: AWMB activities in international markets

Press release

Austrian Wine Marketing Board

Ms Sabine Bauer-Wolf
Weinakademikerin
Head of Communications

Mr Georg Schullian
Teamleader Press, PR & Corporate Design

[t] +43(1)5039267 [f]: +43(1)503926770
Prinz-Eugen-Straße 34 / 1040 VIENNA / AUSTRIA
Austrian Wine on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube
FN 78 209p / Handelsgericht Wien

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