Do you remember what was so top of mind for wine lovers at this time last year?
Tariffs. As in, the tariffs that had been proposed later in 2019 by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that threatened to levy up to 100 percent on European wines. We “got away” with 25 percent tariffs, most especially on French, German and Spanish wines. A year later, the tariffs are still very much a pain point, they are still being discussed in the wine media and the future of them is still uncertain given the new US Presidency and recent retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union on US rum, vodka, brandy and vermouth.
This part of the wine world’s landscape hasn’t changed much in the past twelve months. But, to state the obvious, plenty of other things have changed very much indeed for wine that directly impact consumers globally.
As 2020 comes to a close, I looked back at articles in this column that gained traction among readers. I was curious to see which themes caught your eye and which posts were most popular, particularly as the earthquake of COVID caused the ground to shift under our feet.***
Here were four patterns I noticed about reader interest and reach in this column this year.
When Tariffs Mattered Most
“The One Gift You Can Give to the Wine Industry to Preserve Your Own Enjoyment in 2020.” That was the title of the article in December 2019 about the tariff threats that were preoccupying our thoughts at the time. Maybe it was the threat to our wallets and our wine enjoyment, or maybe we were caught up in the gift-giving season and writing letters to Congress on behalf of the wine industry seemed like an unusual idea. Whatever the reason, page views for this article at the end of 2019 dwarfed most others for all of 2020.
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Even so, the tariff pieces were outnumbered, not surprisingly, by page views for COVID-related coverage taken altogether.
COVID Coverage: Spikes and Dips
COVID’s impact on the wine industry was, naturally, the predominant topic in this column in 2020. It’s interesting to notice the angles of coverage that gained the most traction, beginning with South Africa and this gut-wrenching piece called “As If COVID-19 Weren’t Bad Enough: Government Regulations Cripple the South African Wine Industry.”
Online or virtual wine tastings, and how to do them well, were the second most popular area of COVID coverage, led by this piece on expert guidelines offered by industry pros followed by a case study example from Paso Robles that suggested ways to make wine “sticky” during virtual tastings. Though Forbes is a general interest consumer publication with a focus on business, the performance of these two “how to” articles suggest a healthy representation of wine trade or industry readership as well.
Drinking Alone, Before COVID and During It
“How to Drink Alone” is a topic of ongoing interest for me, largely because I deeply appreciate the quiet and the opportunity for reflection when it’s just me and a glass of wine. Before COVID, I had written most recently about it in January 2020. It seemed timely to address the topic again, given the unusual circumstances of life during COVID. I did so early on in the pandemic, in March 2020, and the takeaways bear underscoring here in light of mindful consumption, another idea that gained momentum this year: there’s more time to explore wine while sheltering in place, and there’s also more time to self-curate.
Back When the Wine World was Normal
It seems like all news in 2020 was influenced in one way or another by COVID. But I’d like to wrap up this piece with mention of the topics and articles that, either because they were pre-COVID or despite COVID, caught readers’ attention.
In January 2020 it was a three-part series about the iconic Harlan Estate, beginning with an archival exploration of its letters to its very first customers. In February it was another three-part series about motherhood and wine, beginning with how to be pregnant while working in wine. Finally, in August, was the last three-part series of the year, this time about women’s leadership in the wine and spirits industry.
*** Important to note: I used page views as the measuring stick here though I recognize that they can be misleading, depending on which articles were picked up by news aggregators and/or shared via social media. Page views are nonetheless a consistent tool applied across all articles published in this column this year.