LATINA, Italy (AP) – Change may come slowly in Italy’s centuries-old wine industry, but the coronavirus pandemic has radically altered the path from the vine to the table in a matter of months, starting with the harvest of ‘autumn.
At the Casale Del Giglio winery in the Agro Pontino region south of Rome, a group of workers regularly moved through the vines wearing masks in the scorching heat of September. They dropped purple Petit Verdot grapes into black buckets, then into the back of a rumbling truck between the rows.
Antonia Palma has worked for Casale Del Giglio for 13 years, traveling 70 kilometers (43 miles) every day. Where the vineyard once put eight workers in a car, there are now two. They bring lunch because the cafeteria is closed to avoid the crowds.
The Italian wine industry was one of the first to take a hit after the first clusters of the virus appeared in late February and the country has become the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe. The collapse of tourism and the closure of restaurants and wine shops severely damaged sales.
“It was a terrible time for everyone. It was very difficult because we had a collapse in our sales, a huge fright, a fear for the future ”, said Antonio Santarelli, owner of Casale Del Giglio, standing among wooden wine barrels stored in the cellar from the cellar.
But not all changes are bad, even when caused by a global pandemic. Forced to stay at home, many people drink with homemade meals rather than in restaurants. Customers who buy online are increasingly clicking on producer websites to order wine directly.
Collectors are also removing their expensive bottles instead of saving them for future celebrations, while residents released from lockdowns have made the local wineries one of their first outings.