Regardless of what part of the world and sector of the drinks, retail or hospitality industries you work in, we’ve all had to find ways to adapt and self motivate ourselves to get through the Covid-19 lockdown. For Pier Sfriso and Reka Haros, the winemaking couple who run a small family winery in Treviso, northern Italy, it meant they were faced with 1,000s of bottles of unsold wine. So what did they do? They started a competition calling on designers to come up with label they could use to help promote and sell 6,000 bottles of Prosecco. It has resulted in hundreds of entries. Now they are calling on anyone in the trade to cast their vote for the designs they have shortlisted. Here Reka Haros shares their story and how the reaction to the competition has helped raise their spirits at such a difficult time.
Rather than sit back and lick their wounds during the Covid-19 lockdown Reka Haros and Pier Sfriso have been able to instigate one of the most creative and effective initiatives in their working lives with their Sfriso Winery 6000 Project design competition.
When people ask us how we are, we are quick to reply, “we are okay!” But frankly, dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find that no-one is truly doing that well.
Five months into this Covid-19 world, while the wine trade is discussing “clean wine,” many smaller winemakers are trying to avoid the worst – bankruptcy. In our province of Treviso, Italy, local newspaper headlines forecast that almost 200 wineries will go bankrupt. Our aim is not to be among those 200.
I remember when we were into our fourth week of lockdown in late March. We were worried about the long-term economical and psychological effects of growing anxiety and uncertainty. Travels for wine tastings got all cancelled, already booked tastings at the winery got cancelled, global logistics took a hit as borders closed, and orders weren’t picked up due to lack of shipping containers. Emails after emails of only bad news, just like the one coming from a US importer who couldn’t take his previously placed order because his business was also going under with Covid-19. And that was just the beginning, we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic.
What to do?
In this entirely new situation, nobody knew what to do. I remember thinking that I wished my grandparents were alive so I could ask for their suggestions. They lived through World War II and the uncertain times that followed for decades to come. I longed to listen to their wisdom just once more. I would have asked them: “What should we do now?”
Small wineries don’t stand a chance when big-name importers try to beat down wines’ prices because they know there’s surplus right now. Small producers don’t get airtime or attention in the media. They don’t have the human or financial resources to keep up with the fast-tracked digital world. And, finally, the disadvantages are many when the wine trade ignores small producers and instead pays excessive attention to “clean wine” made by millionaires that don’t need to sell wine to pay their bills.
On our own…
As a small wine producer, we knew we were completely on our own with our needs and thoughts. We also knew that if we wanted to survive, we needed to be fluid and uproot our usual ways of doing things. That that meant letting go of everything “usual” and getting creative to adapt to this shifting market situation. The creative part wasn’t new to us. We had to do that back in 2009, so the “off the beaten path” path is somewhat familiar to us.
However, we were cognizant of the fact that we were numb and unable to stay motivated because we were holding onto things that were uncertain and foggy. So we needed to focus on what was sure and concrete to get us out of the numbness.
Harvest is approaching, but holding onto harvest quickly became just another anxiety point for us. Should we even harvest this year? Do we need to increase wine stock when market demand isn’t there? We just bottled wine from the previous harvest, and as things are going, our inventory will last through 2020 and 2021.
We needed to see what was stable, what we could count on, and not be under the influence of unexpected changes and conditions.
Moment of inspiration…
After countless sleepless nights, it finally clicked. A rush of adrenaline ran through my body as I was walking up and down suckering the vines. And then I looked at our stock. I knew what to do. We did have something concrete. We had our wine.
The 6,000 bottles of unlabelled Prosecco bottles sitting here at the winery, a pre-Covid order that got cancelled during lockdown, turned out to be the only sure thing we can count on right now. These bottles are physically here. And we need to sell them.
This was the starting point for The 6000 Project, a project we launched to try to get us through 2020 while creating space for creativity to shine. Because these bottles don’t have a front label, we saw an opportunity to do something different and start a creative competition to design a new limited-edition label for this year; a label that represents the hardness and harshness of 2020 but also the joys of kissing it goodbye.
This is what The 6000 Project is about. It’s the certainty of a small family-owned winery that is trying to avoid bankruptcy. It’s a creative outlet to keep us moving forward because creativity fuels innovation, which then feeds progress. None of this would be possible without the support and engagement of the creative world.
Incredibly diverse designers from around the world picked up the challenge, and we have received 74 artwork submissions that are now open to the public to vote. You can browse the brilliant designs in our Design Gallery. [A competition on the Twitter feed @OneMinuteBriefs that invites designers to take part in daily design competitions received 320 design ideas in one day].
Which one will be featured on our limited edition 2020 Prosecco? We decided early that we are leaving it up to you! To cast your vote, you just need to register to receive the password a link to the page where you can cast your vote for the designs that you love.
We still need to sell…
Pre-orders are also open. For orders of two cases, shipping is for free to all countries in the EU, UK, and Switzerland. For the US, we can ship to 34 states, and we recommend group-buying five or 10 cases at which the price perbottle (shipping, and customs clearance included) is €24 and €21 respectively – a fair price for vineyard-to-door delivery across the Atlantic. We also found that businesses are buying these bottles as their Christmas corporate gift. If you’re interested, please consider pre-ordering some of these limited-edition bottles here:
We all need some comfort and joy instead of thinking of the pandemic, politics, the cracking economy, social unrest, and the impact of all of this on our kids. In addition to the crazy of them following classes from home. We like to think of giving this year a beautiful send-off with the idea of joyful moments with family and friends.
We don’t know how 2020 will end. But we know we will need bubbles to celebrate closing the door on it. That is another sure thing that we can all hang on to. And we want to transform this unfortunate situation into one that represents happiness for many of us. That moment of joy is the end of 2020. We believe every single person in this world is looking forward to that moment, and we have the right bottles to pop for those who enjoy wine directly from a small producer.
How you can help
- To take part in the judging and cast your vote in The 6000 Project click here to see all the shortlisted designs. Remember to register to vote.
- But Reka and Pier also need us to buy their wines too in order to make this competition viable as they are sharing the profits with the winning designers. So it needs to take pre-orders of at least 150 cases (900 bottles) by August 16, 2020. You will see the total per bottle cost with shipping fees included at checkout based on where in the world you live. You will be refunded in case they don’t reach their target pre-order. They are currently at close to 50% of the orders they need to take.