October 16, 2021

Grape, wine industry update: Winemakers, grape growers adapt post-COVID

FREEMONT, Ind. — Before the COVID pandemic, it was business as usual for most wineries in Indiana. There was a bigger focus on entertainment, with many wineries offering concerts, private tastings, tours and other events.

But with the onset of the pandemic, tasting rooms went from packed to empty. The state’s wine industry had to adapt to keep afloat.

“During COVID things changed drastically,” said Shane Christ, winemaker at Satek Winery and president of Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association, during a webinar.

“Ultimately, for us, we changed to the point that curbside pickup for wine purchases was something we focused on. In addition to highlighting things like shipping, we saw wine clubs increase throughout the industry.”

Some wineries did tasting kits. Others hosted Zoom tastings to engage with customers.

“All of our employees found themselves doing something different that they had not done before,” Christ said.

Jennifer Lutter, owner manager at Country Heritage Winery and president-elect at IWVA, said her winery changed, as well.

“During the transition to being open after COVID, we couldn’t use our tasting counters,” she said. “We had to come up with a different way. So, we implemented reservations and table service. That was a learning curve. But now that we’ve introduced it, the customers kind of like it.”

As the economy rebounds, Christ is optimistic about the future for Indiana wineries.

“Not only are we a more well-rounded staff,” he said, “we saw a super increase in customers for shipping. That has maintained. A lot of wineries with wine clubs have seen a continued increase in memberships. So, there are some positive aspects.

“As wineries we’re predisposed to be sensitive to hygiene and sanitation. Now we have a deeper appreciation for that, as well. Clean wineries equal clean wine. Not everything was entirely negative when it came to COVID.”

Learn more about the Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association at www.indianawinevine.org.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor