As a state committee of Wine Communicators of Australia, we see ourselves as a small sample of the membership group. The following thoughts were an outcome of the discussion we had together as a team and I have asked permission to share these sentiments.
Being a professional working in wine right now is tough. Like never before have we seen the impact of drought in water prices and lower yields, bushfires in loss of vines and smoke taint, and now market closures and workplace disruption for COVID-19.
So how can we support each other in this time?
Empathetic to the range of responses, we acknowledged the appetite for isolation or social engagement is different for everyone. There is congestion for digital activity, and the sheer fear of depth of desolation of an industry we have all worked so hard to build, support, supply or be part of is terrifying.
Where can each of us find hope and the will to keep going?
Can the time be used for introspective review and strategic planning?
We discussed the design and development of new product development or even label refinement in a time when production planning has ground to a halt. How can anyone consider investing time and money into new ideas when it takes optimism for future routes to market and resources to action? Now more than ever, the time can offer those businesses bolstered enough, the space to not be knee jerk in reacting to pressure of bottling lines, the distance to make strategic decisions and to reconsider what the market will want.
The group then talked of research into consumer trends, the rush to get direct to consumer (DTC) and online sales off the ground, and what support networks are available to wine businesses. PIRSA, DTI, Business SA, Wine Australia, SAWIA, industry groups and such regional bodies can all help producers struggling at this time. Suppliers for DTC software offers ideas and support packages to activate changes that may have been planned in the future. There are government stimulus packages, grants, and membership cohorts to listen and connect individuals with services and support. Plus, research papers which have become open source for greater insights for those often not able to afford them.
Educators in the group were speaking of their students moving to remote learning, remote research and the emotional toll of students that may have family overseas or may have visited home and then couldn’t return. Managing team’s if various locations presents its challenges as they all adapt to the changing environment and health requirements.
Suppliers spoke of their move to work from home and the financial exposure they had as they support their customers in this time. The grounded nature of isolation impacted all events, travel and client engagement and how they juggle the team performance.
Winemakers were finishing vintage which is high stress in the best conditions and impacted with not knowing which routes to market would be open to them for the wine being produced.
Sales and marketing discussed the race to discount and what that could mean long term for brands vs messaging in social media. That the retail space was quite buoyant for some, but DTC was the key focus, especially as cellar door sales were closed. Many virtual and digital options were being wheeled out and how we could support members to learn how to do it, avoiding the pitfalls of those that had tried before.
And let’s not forget the core concern for all was around family. Whether parents of young kids needing constant care, or primary schoolers preparing for an online term, to Year 12 parents who lament the impact on their kids loss of 18th birthdays and milestone celebrations. Those living on their own were hard hit by the isolation, as were those with family overseas. And most of us can’t remember what day it is.
So, while there is a raft of technical support and social chat rooms being offered online, our committee we’re really keen to discuss together how we could support each other personally. How we can engage with members of the State Chapter that are feeling some or all of the concerns we have or beyond what we can even imagine. It’s hard to plan for the future when we are unsettled for today. But this will pass. How we come out the other side of it will be in the engagement and support of each other and the hopefulness we can bring each day to believe there will be a future outside again. No doubt it will not be the same as it was, but innovation is in the ability to adapt to changing times and be human in the sensitive empathy we show each other along the way.
South Australian Based Chapter Chair
WCA Board Member
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND LINKS
Wine Communicators of Australia
Business SA – covid-19 resources
DTTI – Department of Trade, Tourism and Investment SA
PIRSA – Primary Industries of South Australia : Ministers boost
Wine Australia – Research project and information on virtual wine communities
South Australia Wine Industry Association
Wine Intelligence: open source (free) reports on global trends
Wine Depot : support package