Booze | July 28, 2020 8:00 am

Lacking Inventory Space, French Winemakers Experiment With Hand Sanitizer

When multiple crises strike a single industry

Winemaking in Alsace in more prosperous days.
Michal Osmenda/Creative Commons

When the United States first began dealing with the onset of COVID-19, a host of breweries and distilleries began making hand sanitizer. This was an understandable maneuver: the process of converting a distillery to make sanitizer could be done quickly. It also allowed these businesses to respond to a vital need within their communities, which is never a bad thing.

But the breweries and distilleries on this side of the Atlantic aren’t the only businesses in their industry venturing into the world of hand sanitizer. The New York Times has a bittersweet look at a number of French wineries which, in other years, would be readying a future vintage to be savored. The article by Adam Nossiter explores a number of winemakers who find themselves with a dilemma: their industry has hit a rough patch, and they themselves lack the storage space to hold on to excess inventory. What that translates into, more or less, is hand sanitizer with a vintage pedigree.

Wineries across France are dealing with multiple sources of pain for their business, including tariffs from the United States, imposed by the Trump administration, and a declining market due to the coronavirus. And so winemakers are selling what would normally become fine wine to distilleries, where they’ll be used for a very different purpose.

The quantities that they’re sending are, in some cases, not small:

Marion Borès’s family business, Domaine Borès, in Reichsfeld, is sending 30 percent of its production — 19,000 liters. “It’s like you are saying goodbye to somebody who is very dear to you,” she said.

“This is not exactly the destination we had in mind, when we made this wine,” the 27-year-old winemaker added.

Hopefully for the winemakers profiled in the Times story — and their peers — the crisis their industry is in will abate before long.

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