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Lockdown sees Penedès wine production slow down by 60%

“Concern” in the sector after coronavirus crisis and “dramatic” plague of mildew curtails winemaking

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24 June 2020 01:19 PM

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ACN Vilafranca del Penedès / Subirats

The three months of the state of alarm lockdown has caused a 60% decrease in the production of the DO Penedès, a famous wine region inland to the south of Barcelona.

The director of the Regulatory Council, Francesc Olivella, told the Catalan News Agency that there was a drop of 80% during the first month of the health crisis, while the situation was offset as consumption revived in mid-May. 

"Now there is activity in restaurants again, but everyone had extra stock, so it is difficult," Olivella says, cautious assessing the resumption of activity. 

Despite the slight revival, the sector is "concerned" that the Covid-19 crisis has coincided with a "dramatic" plague of mildew in the vineyards, affecting production. “It’s a very tricky year,” they say.

The ongoing extensive plague of the mildew fungus had never before spread so virulently throughout Catalonia. The main cause is the accumulation of rain in recent months, especially in recent weeks.

“The situation is dramatic,” Olivella says. In the case of the DO, the most damaged vineyards are those of the Alt Penedès, especially in the crops located between Sant Llorenç d'Hortons and Castellví de la Marca.

"The pandemic, the mildew, the rain, the surpluses, and the closed markets is a cluster that generates a certain discouragement to winemakers and wineries," he laments.

At the same time, he warns that some outbreaks of other fungi, such as malaria and botrytis, are also being noted.

The Penedès wine region estimates that, between mid-March and mid-June, 60% fewer quality seals were distributed to bottles compared with the same period last year. 

Looking at the whole year, the DO Penedès predicts that the fall in production for 2020 will be close to 35%, and does not rule out reaching 40%. "No one can say that in July we will have a total normalcy that will last until December," Francesc Olivella warns, who assumes that in the autumn, Covid-19 will sprout again and this will block a long-awaited recovery in sales.

Already in the recovery phase, Olivella celebrates that the restaurant and hospitality have been in operation for weeks, albeit in a limited way. He warns, however, that the sector will suffer from the reduced levels of international tourism this summer. 

To compensate, the DO Penedès calls for the promotion of local consumption "to promote sustainability" of the territory.

In the case of exports, Olivella says the expansion of the coronavirus pandemic caused overseas sales to "fall to almost zero" two months ago. 

In recent weeks, he notes that some European markets are reactivating "very slowly," and predicts that it will take months to recover the previous pace of Covid-19.

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  • A worker on the bottling line of a celler in the Penedès region wearing a facemask (by Gemma Sánchez)

  • A worker on the bottling line of a celler in the Penedès region wearing a facemask (by Gemma Sánchez)

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