You probably saw some heated words from West Australian winemakers on social media during the week. When the government announced temporary restrictions on takeaway-alcohol sales on Tuesday, winemakers found themselves in the same boat as bottle shops – reduced to selling a maximum of three bottles of wine to any single customer each day. Wholesale orders between producers and distributors were subject to the same rulings. You can understand why winemakers – especially the small-scale, family-run operations – were frustrated.
In less than a month, winemakers had lost the majority of their major revenue streams. Direct sales to restaurants and wine bars, high-margin cellar-door sales, distributor payments (a knock-on effect of the industry shutdown): all gone. Mail order was the only hope for many winemakers to stay afloat during these uncertain times.
In one good piece of hospitality news, following industry consultation the government has issued an amendment to the restrictions on temporary takeaway-alcohol sales.
As of today, sales to unlicensed individuals at a West Australian address will be limited to one carton, containing up to a dozen 750-millilitre bottles (nine litres), per week. There is no limit to the quantity of wine that can be delivered to customers outside Western Australia, including international sales. Producers can also fulfil wholesale orders of any quantity.
Larry Jorgensen, Wines of Western Australia CEO, praised the government for listening to industry concerns and acting swiftly to amend the ruling.
“This [restriction] would have effectively shut down many WA wine producers,” he said. “Many rely on direct sales to consumers for up to 80 per cent of their sales. With visitation to cellar doors in regions down significantly because of the impact of the coronavirus, their only channel to market is mail-order and online sales to their existing customer database. This will allow them to continue operating and keep their employees working, which is very important for regional WA at this point.”
Yoko Luscher-Mostert, partner at boutique Denmark-based winery Brave New Wines, shares Jorgensen’s sentiments.
“I applaud the industry coming together to raise our collective voices and the government’s willingness to listen to our concerns,” she says. “This is going to be a rough ride for everyone, but with common sense and proper consultation, we might just make it. I’m still scared shitless for what this [pandemic] means for hospitality, our drinking and eating culture, and the people who love and live off this industry. But today, hearing this news, I’m hopeful.”