The Wine Industry takes the new social media route during times of social distancing
By : | May 12, 2020

Italians have, in these unusual COVID-19 times, taken to the social media route to bolster the wine industry and online aperitivo in the evenings, with friends and family. The Indian industry struggles to keep the consumer connect going. 


One of the largest players on the international wine scene, Italy, is floundering. 

A mandatory quarantine of 60 million Italians started on March 9, and ever since, there has been a dramatic deluge and destruction. The wine industry, needless to say, has been hard hit and grappling to stay afloat. 

Vinitaly, one of the largest global showcases of Italian wines staged every year for more than five decades in Verona, and slated to take place in mid-April, was called off. The country has had to deal with closed restaurants and bars, sluggish exports and the complete drying up of incoming wine tourism which was a thriving scene of economic buoyancy. 

Italian Vineyards

However, nature has predictably taken its own course. Early budbreak on the vines has kept the vineyards pretty much buzzing in wake of the vintage of 2020. Italians have, at these COVID-19 unusual times, taken the social media route to bolster the wine industry and online aperitivo in the evenings, with friends and family. 

“On-line wine sales have shot up despite the difficulties of logistics of home deliveries. Lockdown also means the closure of Italy’s vibrant restaurant trade reducing the consumption of premium Italian wine,” says Michele Shah, an acclaimed wine critic and travel writer, who has been living in Italy for over three decades. “Interactivity has spread fast though Italy’s social network.  At times emotional, as only Italians can be, there have been some compelling tweets, facebook postings and Instagram photos to show how the Italian wine trade is counteracting the virus with hashtags such as #iobevoacasa (I drink at home) and #iobevoitaliano, (I drink Italian).’

Italian Vineyards

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G., the flagship wine of the Veneto region, launched a nation-wide campaign in mid-March called #iolaperitivolofaccioacasa (I drink my aperitivo at home). Encouraging people to drink their wine at home and post pictures on social media with this hashtag, it aimed at promoting social distancing whilst also supporting the wine industry. This was a digital revival of the apertif culture that the area is known for and garnered mass participation. 



Some miles away, and in the bustling capital city of Rome, a new movement has taken shape. 

Inspired by the Caffe Sospeso, or suspended coffee culture of Naples where one pays in advance for a coffee to be consumed by a needy person, 25 wine bars in Rome have come together under the Puntarella Rossa Club to organise the Il Calice Sospeso or the Suspended Chalice Campaign. Front and centre of the Puntarella Rossa Club is master sommelier and event organiser, Livia Belardelli who organises wine forward events. 

According to Belardelli, “This Club was born to create a synergy with wine bars, producers, fans and wine experts. From September 2020, there will be a schedule of activities that will involve these stakeholders and the proceeds will go to INTERSOS, a humanitarian organization based in Rome that works on the front-line of emergencies, bringing assistance to victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters.”

Vineyards across Tuscany

Talking of social distancing in the vineyard, which at this time of year is busy with a stream of visitors eager for tasting, Giampiero Bertolini, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Biondi Santi, one of the most renowned wine producers in Tuscany for Brunello di Montalcino, says, “We have implemented all measures on the ground; a minimum distance among workers in the vineyards is being strictly followed with the imperative use of mask and gloves when working in the cellar. The estate is now closed to all external suppliers and guests.”

In France, too, all wine-related events and fairs, including the acclaimed en primeur tastings in Bordeaux have been cancelled and the lockdown has weighed heavily on wine sales. The various chateaux have had to close to guests and noted wine industry players such as speaker and digital sommelier, Alexis Caraux, Founder of Millesiwine in Paris are taking to social media. A webinar hosted by Alexis on Facebook exclusively on the wines from Bordeaux garnered a viewership of more than hundreds of Facebook users from India. 

The lockdown has also had its ramifications on the Indian wine industry. Since sales of liquor is under the discretion of state governments and not the central, different states have adopted different measures, but majority have been closed to the idea of opening up liquor sale. 

Some wine importers like Sonarys and Wine Park, to name a few, have been taking this time to connect more deeply with their customer base by conducting free online classes and webinars involving top wine producers. In two successful quarantine classes, wine connoisseur and owner of the wine importing company Sonarys, Sanjay Menon facilitated two webinarsone with the Haags of Schloss Lieser in Mosel and the other on the wines of Piedmonte, involving the winegrowers like Sylvia Altare, Luisa Rocca, Giovanni Coreggia and Oscar Arrivabene. 

Viewers were able to take virtual tours of both regions Mosel and Piedmonte, while also having their questions on wine making styles, soils etc answered one on one. Taking to Instagram Live, Madhulika Bhattacharya aka Madame La Cave has been conducting engaging sessions with key representatives from her wine portfolio such as Banfi, Ferragamo etc, while All Things Nice has had regular sessions with wine producers and chefs from their handle.  

 It is a certainty that recovery will be a long road home for the global wine industry. Companies will have to improvise on their online offerings, add value and be nimble about their digital avatars. Social Media will displace face to face interactions. And, ironically enough, for a social libation like wine ….the rules of the game will change hereon. 

A hotelier and communications professional, Gargi has experience with leading international hotel brands within Sales and Marketing roles. For her, luxury must be bespoke and have a compelling story to it. Gargi loves to dabble in poetry and travel writing. She has a keen interest in Italy, especially Italian wines, which are unique expressions of the country’s 500 and more native grape varietals.