Above: Piero Mastroberardino grows grapes and makes wine in Irpinia.
April 2, 2020
Hardly a month ago, not even the most imaginative writer in the world could have come up with a screenplay like this: Most of the world comes to a stop, at the same time more or less, waiting for events to unfold.
We’re now living at a distance, thanks to technology. And when we encounter another person, during the few moments of the day when we are allowed to leave our homes, it’s a race to avoid contact.
Everything seems different now. And when this terrible health crisis is over, our world will be affected by the early stages of an equally painful but undoubtedly longer socio-economic crisis. It will burn the absurdity of these moments into our memories.
The women and men of wine were accustomed to dividing their time between their vineyards, their wineries, the airport, wine dinners, wine seminars… Today, it all seems so far away and unfamiliar: The frenetic pace, the handshakes, the tastings, the sharing of a glass.
Our little world of fine wine is paying for this strange situation. The early restrictions called for the closure of venues where people socialize, like restaurants, cafés, bars, and clubs. Those are the places where wine does its magic, helping people to be together.
And at the same time, social distancing — the overarching, unimpeachable principle we now live by — has fallen on us like a brick. Everything that facilitates community life has been banished.
But wineries are included among the short list of businesses not required to close. The vineyards still need tending. To abandon them would mean giving up on this fall’s harvest. And it would cause grave harm to the vineyard’s organic balance. Even the wine that’s being aged in the cellar cannot be left on its own. But our friends the restaurateurs aren’t allowed to go back to work. For the time being, we continue to care for our vines and wines with the same devotion we always have as we prepare for what comes next. It seems like that day is coming. The number of new cases, at least in our country, appears to be reaching its peak.
Am I hopeful? Yes, I think we are going to get out of this mess. But I can’t say that we will get out of it unharmed. I’m not sure that everyone is going to be able to absorb the weight of managing the costs that will accumulate as cash flow declines. It’s going to be like this for months.
But the women and men of wine are tough. They don’t lack in creativity. They have an artist’s spirit and it will help them to find their way even through this dense forest.
And that’s why I’m hopeful for what tomorrow will bring.
It will be a different tomorrow and it will take some time to get used to it. But it will still be a tomorrow.
In the meantime, our wines will continue to age and they will find their place in the planet’s rekindled community.
I’m sending out a big hug… to everyone who loves wines.
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