Buy A Bottle Of Wine From South Africa Or Lebanon To Help The Hardest Hit Producers

Posted: Sep 22, 2020

It has not been a vintage year for wine producers anywhere. According to an official report from the European Commission, the near-global shutdown of bars and restaurants in the spring meant Europe’s wine industry was among the hardest hit of all the continent’s agricultural sectors when Covid-19 struck. Producers in the US and Australia have had to cope with similar sales-sapping problems during the pandemic, while still struggling with the fallout from vineyard-ravaging wildfires. It’s the winemakers of South Africa and Lebanon who will be most anxious to see the back of 2020 – and who have had to grapple with the most challenging conditions.

In the Cape, the wine industry has been left reeling by the severity of the lockdown measures taken by the South African government as it struggled to deal with Africa’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.

There are similar concerns in the much smaller, but no less economically significant, wine industry in Lebanon. Here problems have been building for some time, but have really come to a head in the past year and, thanks to the Beirut explosion, to world attention in the past month. A corrupt government presided over a near-total financial collapse that saw the country’s currency, the lira, lose 80% of its value, causing enormous hardship across Lebanese society. The local wine industry – a rare export success in a country that imports 90% of its needs – has been no exception.

The cost of equipment and facilities has soared, from barrels, corks, bottles and labels to transport fuel, electricity and water. On top of this, access to proceeds from overseas sales has been limited by the government’s strict capital control measures. For wine producers in both countries there’s a horrible poignancy about the travails of 2020. Both had overcome the trauma and ugly politics of the 20th century (the long years of, respectively, apartheid and civil war) to build two of the most exciting and successful wine industries in the world, only to see their efforts thwarted once again by circumstances beyond their control.

By David Williams
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