As life starts to return to normal for many countries, and the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, The Buyer is running a series of interviews with key, influential winemakers about the impact of Covid-19 on making wine. Most of the wine news in the past 18 months has been about output, distribution and consumption trends during the pandemic. We want to know from the people who actually make the wine how has their life been? what challenges they’ve faced as winemakers? and how they are having to adapt moving forwards? In this latest piece we talk to Ornelaia estate director Axel Heinz.
“So far 2021 looks like typical Bolgheri vintage with lots of sunshine, a dry summer, very much in the spirit of great vintages like 1998, 2001, 2006 and 2016,” says Heinz.
PETER DEAN: How has life been for the past 18 months?
AXEL HEINZ: As for everybody, the pandemic has had a strong impact on our day-to-day activities, particularly when it comes to travelling. On the other hand the vineyards ignore Covid, so we had to keep up the work in the field and in the winery and have enjoyed a very good 2020 harvest.
How has the pandemic affected your winery?
The main factor was making sure that our staff could continue to operate safely. We implemented a safety protocol, including social distancing, masks, sanitation of the workspace, smart working where possible. After that we went on to work as in a normal year.
Has life returned to normal yet?
Not quite, we still have restrictions in public and at work, but I suppose we all got used to it by now.
What has been the hardest thing about adapting to the ‘new normal’?
Not being able to see your friends and relatives during the hardest moments of lockdown.
Has anything good come out of it? If so what?
The fact that for one brief moment there was nothing coming in the way of just being winegrowers and winemakers. Without any other distraction we were able to fully reconnect with our vineyards and our winemaking.
What lessons do you think have been learned in the past 18 months?
We have learned how fragile today’s world is and that we can’t take for granted that we will be able to maintain our lifestyles unchanged in the future.
Has it led to anything new in the pipeline? Cuvées, varietals, styles etc?
In terms of the effect on your winemaking – how impactful has COVID been compared to Climate Change?
Covid has not changed the way we make wine and hasn’t (luckily) changed our consumers thirst for good wines. It required adjustments in our private lives and at work to stay safe.
Climate change, on the other hand, raises a lot of potential questions for the future, most of which not yet answered: how the style of our wines will change, will we have to adapt our winemaking, viticulture, will some growing regions be unsuited for wine production. There is a lot more at stake with climate change.
What stage of the current growing cycle are you?
We are currently in the middle of white wine harvest and will soon start with the reds.
Is 2021 going to be a good harvest?
So far it looks like an excellent vintage, but we will have to wait for the last grapes to be harvested to be completely sure.
Any particular characteristics to note?
So far 2021 looks like typical Bolgheri vintage with lots of sunshine, a dry summer, very much in the spirit of great vintages like 1998, 2001, 2006 and 2016. Let’s keep fingers crossed.