Millions of Bottles of Wine in Europe May Go to Waste Because of Pandemic

Small wineries are stuck with surplus bottles and nowhere to sell or store them

Italian wine
The European wine industry is experiencing the perfect storm.
Mike Benna on Unsplash

They’ve figured out good ways to repurpose beer during our current pandemic.

The wine industry, however, is having a tough time during the age of COVID-19 According to the Independent, millions of bottles of wine could go to waste in Europe during lockdown.

With bars, restaurants and tasting rooms temporarily closed, producers have surplus supplies. The wine trade group Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV) estimates that as much as 10 million hectoliters of wine could go unused (in other words, one billion liters). There’s also little storage available for the upcoming wine harvest, and, as the Times UK notes, the additional problems of President Trump’s tariffs, Brexit, and a trade deal between China and Australia has “left vineyards in France, Spain and Italy with their cellars full of unsold bottles.”

So yes, we are drinking more, but like any other industry, it’s the big companies that are able to weather the crisis; the smaller wineries do not have the capacity.

There’s one potential solution: Distilling unused wine into alcohol and then into hand sanitizer. But under current E.U. regulations, wine producers have to request permission from officials before distilling wine into alcohol.

Right now some smaller vineyards are just worried about staying open in general. As Reuters notes, wine is Italy’s most lucrative product, with exports worth 6.4 billion euros in 2019. One producer they spoke with noted that sales have declined by double digits and most of their product is for export; another suggested they had maybe a two to three month window before they’d have to shut down.

Our suggestion? If you like wine from Europe, find a way to order bottles from small producers (use your app of choice, but also check sites like and Wine Express).

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