Is wine an “essential service”? – Covid-Day 1

Does alcohol consitute “the necessities of life”? How important in these troubling times is it to have access to alcohol? Yesterday the morning breakfast show, The AM Show, polled New Zealanders as to how important this is in life:

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2020/03/poll-should-alcohol-be-considered-an-essential-product.html

The final results are not surprising to me – and yet when all the panic buying started last week (we still have not managed to get any flour) I turned to one colleague and said “Well I hope the breweries are pumping out more product.”

Aotearoa has, as Robert Joseph said to me yesterday, a rather chequered past with alcohol. We nearly voted in Prohibition in 1919. A hundred years later, our appalling domestic violence cases are probably fueled in part by alcohol, as is our growing road toll (though NZ is not a safe place to drive for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here.)

But alcohol is so ingrained in our social norms.

This came to the surface after the March 15 terror last year. I have lots of friends who are Muslim and I did my best to contact as many as I could, but it is not as though I could go over to theirs, open a nice bottle of wine and share some personal time that way. And yet one Central Otago producer took the opportunity to post a promotion on their Facebook pages saying that profits from cellar door sales that weekend would be donated to the victims’ funds. I know that they meant well, but how tone deaf can the wine industry be to the rest of the world???

Anyway, there has been a surge in alcohol sales in the past few days. I even panicked yesterday when I realised that I had some back vintages of Kumeu River in my rented cellar, which meant a mad dash across town to retrieve some. But I thought I would summarise what the rules are here, now that we are in Day 1 of lockdown:

wine and beer will still be available in supermarkets for the time being

all liquor stores have been told to close

however we have some parts of NZ which have district licensing trusts, so they will remain open and, curiously, they sell spirits as well, whereas our grocery stores cannot (and nor can supermarkets sell Port or Sherry)

wineries can remain in business, but the cellar door must be closed – not sure what that means for individual businesses, some will be hurting

because wine is now one of our key exports, vintage is continuing, however with rules around social distancing and even greater sterile requirements (if you are hand harvesting… well, must be stressful) – but the rules on this have been quickly cobbled together, and we have heard that some places are having problems – everyone is doing the best that they can

2020 looks like being an amazing vintage here in Middle Earth

Stay home,

Save lives,

Kia kaha!

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