South Australian wineries to close amid Barossa Valley coronavirus cluster concerns

By Richard Davies


March 30, 2020 22:05:27

South Australian wineries are the latest businesses to be impacted by measures designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, with state authorities banning cellar-door visits.

Key points:

  • South Australian wineries and cellar doors will not reopen on Tuesday
  • Under new restrictions, the sale of alcohol and other produce from cellar doors is prohibited
  • Some SA wineries are looking online for ways to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic

With wine tasting already off the menu due to COVID-19 restrictions, many wineries had been relying on cellar-door sales to keep them afloat.

But new measures coming into force at midnight on Monday will force them to close their doors indefinitely.

It is another blow for the wine industry, which relies heavily on tourists.

South Australia’s Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said wineries had been identified as a significant risk area for coronavirus transmission.

“We are trying to discourage people from undertaking those unnecessary trips to what might normally be considered tourist destinations, or even day trips,” he said.

“And we’re trying to prevent what happened in the Barossa Valley from happening in other locations.”

A cluster of 34 cases in the Barossa region has been linked to two groups of tourists from the United States and Switzerland.

Dozens of schools and childcare centres have now closed in the region as a precaution.

“So … as of midnight tonight, we will be banning the sale of alcohol or other produce from cellar doors and wineries — they would not be permitted to open,” Commissioner Stevens said.

“We are also prohibiting the tasting or sampling of produce, whether it be beverage or foodstuffs, in any premises across South Australia.

“This is a real risk area for transmission of the disease.”

Industry looks to digital innovations

A lack of visitors has forced some businesses to look at innovative ways to stay afloat.

Hemera Estate in Lyndoch is one of a number of wineries that has set up virtual tastings, helping those with a glass at home connect with the winemaker.

“Zoom or one of those video apps that allows multiple sharing, we just organise a time and a place with a few of us and get together … apart,” winemaker Russell Cutting said.

“Nothing too technical; we share a glass and talk about the wine and how it’s made.”

The process tries to replicate the personal experience of visiting a cellar door, taking people on a journey through the winemaking process.

The only person at home simply needs to have sourced their own bottle beforehand.

Mr Cutting said business had fallen by more than half since social-distancing requirements came into place.

But he said he wanted to ensure customers were still connected to the winemaking process.

“I think it’s kind of important at this time just to show a bit of love for everyone,” he said.

“Just to get a little bit of community back.”

Barossa cellar door manager Rachael Duncan said businesses in the wine industry needed to be strong for each other during the pandemic.

“We’re doing as much as we can to generate enough sales to ensure that we can pay our basic expenses during this process,” she said.

“We’ve all got to look out for each other and, if we can, all be together as one so we can fight this off together.”

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