A growing number of wineries are making the hard decision to close their cellar doors temporarily as the impact of the coronavirus begins to hit hard.
This latest financial blow for the wine industry comes on top of the drought and the bushfires.
Cellar doors that are temporarily closed include Peter Lehmann Wines in the Barossa, Bird in Hand in the Adelaide Hills and Jim Barry Wines in Clare.
It must be said that most cellar doors are choosing to remain open, but with an added focus on hygiene including asking all visitors to use hand sanitiser.
Casella Family Brands was one of the first producers to act, announcing last Friday afternoon on Facebook that it was closing four of its cellar doors: Peter Lehmann Wines in the Barossa, Brand’s Laira in Coonawarra, Morris of Rutherglen and Baileys of Glenrowan.
“As a family owned business, the health and wellbeing of our people and the communities in which we operate is our number one priority,” Casella said in a statement.
“Casella Family Brands has begun to take action to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in Australia.
“We want to act proactively and do our part to responsibly mitigate the impact of coronavirus on our industry.”
On Monday NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard linked the Oakvale Winery in the Hunter with a coronavirus case.
“As a precaution, anyone who visited Oakvale Winery on Broke Road, Pokolbin, between 4 and 13 March should be alert for fever or respiratory symptoms,” NSW Health said in a statement.
The coronavirus is also leading to a string of wine events being cancelled including a key presentation for donors at The Barossa Cellar this Sunday.
“After much soul searching we have decided to postpone the event,” The Barossa Cellar said in a statement.
“Given the current Covid-19 situation and the uncertainty it creates, we believe it is the most responsible action to help keep our community safe.
“We intend to reschedule the key presentation at a later date and look forward to welcoming you to The Barossa Cellar when life returns to normal.”
Tasting Australia in Adelaide, which has a strong wine program, has been postponed.
Two Hands Wines announced yesterday that it’s keeping its cellar door open with some new measures.
“All guests will be asked to use hand sanitiser upon arrival at cellar door,” the winery said on Facebook.
“Our team will be wiping down all high-traffic surfaces with sanitising solutions on the hour, including but not limited to, door handles, bathroom surfaces and tasting bench surfaces.
“We ask you to remember that your continued support will allow local Barossa businesses and their suppliers to survive.”
The Shaw + Smith tasting room in the Adelaide Hills remains open with precautions including reducing the seating capacity to provide more space between groups, and asking customers to pay by card instead of cash.
Yet another challenge looming for the wine industry will be the hardship that pubs, bars and restaurants are going through with the Federal Government’s social isolation strategy.
As at 6am on 17 March the Department of Health said there have been 375 confirmed cases of Covid-19 including 170 in NSW, 71 in Victoria, 68 in Queensland, 29 in South Australia, 28 in Western Australia, seven in Tasmania, two in the ACT and none in the Northern Territory.
Photo: Handpicked Semillon resting outside the weighbridge (Peter Lehmann Facebook page).