This year, I wanted to hear what others were resolving, wine-wise. After an extraordinary 12 months that upended our lifestyles and challenged our perspectives on what is important, what are wine lovers looking forward to in 2021, and how has the pandemic changed the way they enjoy wine? So I reached out to a few people I respect, and asked my social media “hive” to buzz me their thoughts.
Some common themes were to drink less but better, and to share more. At the beginning of lockdown last March, wine sales soared nationwide as we stocked up, but we favored safe, comfortable, familiar brands. Drinking at home is cheaper than at restaurants, so there’s less cost in enjoying another glass or two. Several people vowed to abstain for “dry January” to recalibrate their palates and focus on their health.
Wine takes time to grow, to mature, to savor. But 2020 showed us that time cannot be counted on. So why hold back? We look forward to the day when we can once again clink glasses with friends, old and new. And on that day, many people resolved to enjoy and share their treasured wines instead of holding them for a special occasion that may never come.
Some aren’t waiting. “I open a bottle or mix a cocktail, then start texting neighbors to ask who might also like a pour,” says Andrea Erdman, an international development consultant in D.C. The pandemic has changed Erdman’s perspective on shopping for wine. “I now openly compliment the wonderful, helpful staff at my favorite wine stores,” she says. “I thank them for always entertaining my questions with patience and good advice. And I no longer step foot in stores that have been jerks to women customers.”
For Miriam Juckett, an environmental scientist in San Antonio, wine during the pandemic was a connection to “normal” life before social restrictions were imposed. Modern technology helped maintain that tie to the Before Times. “Wine, like food, seemed to be one of the few things that could be enjoyed at home despite everything else being taken away,” she said. “It’s comforting, and definitely enjoyable, when so much else wasn’t. We regularly have ‘FaceWine’ with a few friends now, which is also nice and may be a new habit.”
Juckett said she hopes online shopping and curbside pickup will become part of the new normal. “Browse online, take my time, load up a cart and click ‘purchase.’ Then drive a few minutes, park, and the wine magically appears in my trunk. Stand back, sliced bread, the next best thing has arrived.”
This year, Juckett looks forward to once again enjoying wine with friends in person. “I want to laugh over dinner and wine again, and take friends to our favorite wineries and wine bars,” she says. “I want to travel and try regional wines wherever I visit. All of it.”
Wanderlust is also afflicting Joseph Heflin, a retired salesman of amusement park rides who lives in Reston, Va. Heflin and his wife, Carol, “have visited over a hundred Virginia wineries, as well as vineyards from Kelowna to Niagara to Santa Barbara to Soave,” he says. “Today we long to see the other side of the Beltway!”
Heflin has purchased wine online for years and found some deep discounts during the pandemic. “If you are willing to buy by the case and have some tasting experience, there are some serious investments to be made,” he says.
The current zeitgeist was best summed up by Karen Tompkins of D.C., who resolves to “open the bottle I want to drink, even if it’s pricey and I’m the only one drinking it.”
After all, we can always buy more wine, she says. “If this past year taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t waste time waiting for all the good things to happen later. Enjoy the now as fully and as often as possible!”
A frustrating coda: Last week I mentioned a coalition of chefs, importers, retailers and wineries urging President-elect Joe Biden to repeal President Trump’s tariffs on certain European wines and foods as a way to help restaurants cope with the pandemic downturn. But on Dec. 30, in a classic move to announce unpopular actions during a holiday news lull, the Trump administration expanded its 25 percent tariff to include more wines and spirits from France and Germany. The administration described the move as a response to new duties imposed by the European Union in November in an ongoing dispute over the E.U.’s subsidies for Airbus. But with an effective date of Jan. 12, the new tariffs will cost importers thousands of dollars unexpectedly on product en route to the United States. The National Association of Beverage Importers called the new tax a “bah humbug” from the Trump administration to small businesses in the wine trade. On Thursday, the administration announced it would hold off “indefinitely” on imposing tariffs in a separate dispute with France over the digital services tax. That measure, if it took effect, would have included champagne.
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