COVID-19 and phylloxera destruction in Europe: though these two events sit more than 100 years apart, they have had had almost immeasurable impacts on the wine trade, not least because of the gregarious nature of wine and the sharing of people, ideas and techniques.
Those words were written by Sam Hellyer, head of wine and spirits at Chiswick Auctions, on harpers.co.uk, in a fascinating article comparing the high transmissibility of the two diseases and the social impact of the outbreaks.
“In the 1800s, phylloxera came within a hair’s breadth of wiping out winemaking in western Europe,” Sam writes. “Phylloxera couldn’t truly take hold (in Europe) until the transport routes became so fast that it was still in one of its multi-stage lifecycles where it produced eggs when it arrived.
“In the same way, if COVID had emerged in a time of less global connectivity, then it could have been easier to isolate.”
With both phylloxera and COVID leading to lockdowns and social isolation, the article examines what the future might look like for the wine trade and society, post COVID.
“Should we remain at home and stream culture straight to our living room? Of course we should. The infrastructure has been bolstered to the point where it would be madness not to enjoy this new avenue of introspection,” the article states.
“But we must remember where we were and what we were working toward when we were swept away. During this pandemic we have learned that within large cultures there is a vital otherness that must be welcomed and looked upon for guidance. Those who come to help us harvest carry culture and knowledge which must be respected and observed, not absorbed and homogenised. Most of us will be changed, strengthened with new material and able to carry on and rebuild what we had.”