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The Merano Wine Festival 2020 adapts and challenges Covid: the event, from November 6 to 10

Helmut Köcher’s event in the “Coronavirus scenario”: staggered access, fewer crowds, lots of security measures, with wine at the center

A return to the origins for the “wine salon” of Italian wine, but looking at the present, digital tools, e-commerce, but also the rules imposed by the pandemic, with staggered access, with fever measurement at the entrance, redesigned spaces and ad hoc protection devices, including portable copper spittoons for each person, to ensure the safety of visitors and exhibitors, with the desire to move forward and give a positive signal to the world of wine and wine lovers. This is the starting point for Helmut Köcher’s Merano Wine Festival No. 29, scheduled from November 6 to 10, in Merano, a “physical” event that adapts to and challenges the Coronavirus. “You have to understand first of all if the events are economically sustainable, but I see what happens in Asia and Northern Europe, so I decided to apply to Merano the rules that apply today to catering, because the Merano Wine Festival - said Köcher - is like a bar counter where you can taste wine. Depending on the space, we expect a maximum of 500 people between exhibitors and visitors, and 4 square meters of space per person.
At Kursaal, in 2019, there were 120 producers and 1,000 people inside, this year there will be 300 people in all, at most 50 producers at a time. And this, of course, means a reduction in exhibitors and visitors (and journalists), because it will be essential in any case to find an economic balance that is more difficult than ever to find. Let’s reconfirm all the historical events, with a different key: there will be 2 meter tables, with two visitors per table with a distance of one meter between one and the other. There will be fever measurement at the entrance, registration of people for security reasons, as already happens in restaurants in Germany, access only according to room capacity, we will also rethink the ventilation. Who will manage the table will have mask or visor that we will provide, and gloves - adds Köcher - and then exhibitors and staff will have to test for Covid in the four days before the event. The visitor will have to have the mask (except at the time of the tasting), there will be disinfectants, a medical clinic present, and we are also evaluating a sanitary gate, as in airports, which does a complete disinfection of those who enter. There will also be a copper glass as a gadget, a sort of portable spittoon to avoid risks from droplets, which then everyone will empty in special spaces. There will be obligatory paths to manage the flows, the entrance with numbers like the supermarket to access some tasting areas and so on”. In short, a complicated picture, and ready to be upset, “because the virologists do not rule out a new wave in autumn, and if there will be a new lockdown we are ready to review everything digitally”.
On the other hand, even the world of events must come to terms with a new and unprecedented picture, as Alessandro Regoli, director of WineNews, called by the creator of the Merano Wine Festival Köcher, at the opening of the conference to give his vision of future scenarios and the present of Italian wine: “the passion for wine in the world is intact - said, among other things, Alessandro Regoli - and, indeed, it is stronger, because the desire to drink it has never passed. And the future is in the fundamental markets, from where we stopped, but never completely, fortunately, with online sales and above all direct-to-consumer sales that have made and will make a difference, for everyone, without exclusion, alongside the traditional channels; and in world catering, which, on the other hand, from the USA to Asia, has come to a standstill, leaving a huge void and making all its economic, but also social and cultural weight felt, because the knowledge, storytelling, promotion of wine and quality food in the world, after all, pass through here. Communication-information will also change a lot, and events will also happen, looking at the web and social media. But we should imagine that we will come back to tell the story of the territories and the producers of wines and products of Italian agriculture. Together. Live. It’s human. That’s why we have to think positive. Even if many things will never be the same again...”.
“The 2020 kermesse aims to give producers and visitors more physical space while respecting the rules of distance and hygiene currently in force - explains a press note - but also to a different organization of times that will see the inclusion of a shift on two time slots, the first from 9 am to 1.30 pm and the second from 2.30 pm to 7 pm”. With Merano, therefore, trying to chart a course of events in the Covid era. As we have said, the main points of reference will be the careful division of spaces and the careful management of visitor flows, but also the respect of health regulations that provide for the measurement of temperature, the use of masks and disinfectants and the registration at the entrance of the event. These are some of the new ways in which the Merano WineFestival will be held.
Added to this is the need to present a negative Covid-19 test result in the four days prior to the event by all producers and staff working at the event, so as to ensure a safe environment for the public. And then the presence of a medical clinic and the possibility to place a Sanitary Gate at the entrance for sanitization. In addition to the news related to the emergency, the patron confirms the program and guarantees that the price of the ticket will not increase despite the investments planned to guarantee health security. But obviously, net of the conditions imposed by force majeure, at the centre of everything will be the wine, with its winemakers and its stories. And also with an economic framework that, obviously, is more complex than ever before, especially for wineries that focus on high quality, which see catering, the prevailing channel, still substantially unchanged.
“The losses for wine are difficult to quantify: the average, in the first quarter”, WineNews director Alessandro Regoli stressed again, “could be around -25% in the first quarter, and could even reach 30-40% at the end of the year. These are estimates on which, obviously, the hope is to be wrong, that the losses are less. But the recovery will take a very long time, it will take time to return to certain normality, in Italy and abroad. The producers, and we have heard so many of them in these 80 days, are trying to be consistent with their business philosophies both on the market and on product quality and continue to do what they have always done. Sacrifices will be needed, great attention to costs, but consistency must be maintained on product quality and distribution methods”.
In Merano, as mentioned, the winemakers and the wines, in any case, will be the real protagonists. As every year, Naturae et Purae - bio&dynamica, a section dedicated to sustainable production, natural, organic, biodynamic, orange and Piwi wines, is confirmed, however, on stage in four days, with a shift of winemakers and two visiting hours.
New also in the heart of the Wine Festival, Wine - The Official Selection, in the spaces of the Kurhaus, which will see the participation of 122 national and international producers on November 6 and 7 and the same number on November 8 and 9. The connection between the spaces of the Kurhaus and those of the GourmetArena, where Foods Spirits Beer - The Official Selection will see the division of producers on the days and a shift of 100 producers at a time. The WineHunter Area will also change, which, in addition to the presence on the podium of the Kursaal, will leave the usual spaces of the Wine Festival and move into the lounges of the hotels in Merano; a digital lounge will also be created to allow visitors to interact with the producers present in this area.
Confirmed also Catwalk Champagne on November 10 (10-15 a.m.)
Among the novelties, the first one is dedicated to the guide The WineHunter Award: the official award of Merano WineFestival becomes this year a precious paper volume. In addition to this, there are digital novelties, such as the e-commerce The WineHunter, in collaboration with Gruppo Volta from Verona, where you can buy the award-winning products from The WineHunter and a digital platform, developed in collaboration with Milano Wine Week, for the Masterclasses. There will also be a Gala Event on November 5th at the Puccini Theatre where the teaser screening of Wine Odyseey, a film that aims to tell the story of wine from its origins to the future. And then again, initiatives such as Book your own sommelier live audio and video with tasting for those who follow the event from home and showcooking on site and digital.
Numerous Side Events, such as Catwalk Bollicine, organized, together with Milano Wine Week, in the shops of Merano, Gourmet Tour Merano e d’Intorni in the restaurants that present the wines of the guide The WineHunter Award, the presentation of Georgia: the Origin of Wine and the Symposium, dedicated to the CAP, and, again, the program of The WineHunter Hotel Safari and WineHunter Merano&Innovation. Finally, Merano WineFestival 2020 will be integrated with a platform under development to ensure greater visibility and digital meeting space for producers and visitors with the possible hypothesis of a 100% Digital Festival and the complete digitalization of the event in case of a return to the lockdown.
A framework presented today, in webinar, and that will be deepened in the live talk on May 21 (5pm) on the website meranowinefestival. com/mwf2020-backtotheroots: in the virtual living room of The WineHunter important guests moderated by journalist Costantino Gabardi will speak about the fight against Covid-19 and events: from the Minister of Agriculture Teresa Bellanova to Levan Davitashvili, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, from Paolo De Castro, vice-president of the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commission, to Luigi Moio, vice-president of OIV, from Gennaro Esposito, two Michelin stars chef, to Franco Pepe, best pizza chef in the world, from Marco Cappelletti, creator of the e-commerce of The WineHunter, to Maurizio Gigola, director of Wine Odysee, to Daniela Zadra, director of Azienda di Soggiorno di Merano.

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