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Wine and events, Helmuth Kocher, creator of the “Merano Wine Festival”, talks about the event

In Merano, from November 6th to 10th, he was the first to challenge Covid-19. “So many rules to observe, but it is possible”

Wine events have had a great desire to restart, and are courageously challenging the constantly evolving Covid-19 scenario, which offers everything but certainties. The first event to be announced, back in May 2020, was Helmuth Kocher’s “Merano Wine Festival”, scheduled to be held November 6th to 10th. In the last few days, presale for the event has kicked off, exclusively on line. Tickets for entrances will be subject to a quota and remodeled to respond to the anti-contagion rules, and in some way, will bring the “Merano Wine Festival” back to its original “parlor” of Italian wine. The theme of this edition, number 29, is, not surprisingly, “Back to the Roots”, which was definitely challenging to organize, as Kocher explained to WineNews recently. “I must say that this year our commitment has truly been remarkable, because, obviously, you have to take into consideration so many rules and regulations. I am more than ever convinced that this year will also be a great success, also in terms of presence, because we have the space and capacity to respect these rules while staging the event physically. Today, I was together with one of our partners, the Medical Center of Merano, to discuss how to manage the flow of people, and I must say that I am also very happy because it is a return to our origins. When I organized the first Wine Festival, in 1992, there were very few people, only 50 producers. This year, inside the Court House, we will have 150 producers, but no more than 500 people at once within a time slot. This obviously means that everything is in another space for producers, and we there will definitely be more direct contact with the people who come to the Merano Wine Festival. Further, this year will also be sort of a preview of what will be happening next year, which will be the thirtieth anniversary, and it will be a great celebration”.
There will obviously be a lot of rules to follow. “Certainly, and we will guarantee compliance with all hygiene and safety rules, as it should be. For instance, a producer will have a table 2 meters long, and the next producer will be separated from the table by at least one meter. In addition, only two people at a time can come to the table to taste the wines. Another issue is that inside the building there will inevitably be the obligation to wear a mask, which you can obviously remove when tasting wines. However, there will be no gatherings, there will be no queues to get the glasses, and there will be no cashier, because everything must first be purchased online. There will be a regulated inflow and outflow. Therefore, all of these things will make the “Merano Wine Festival” a truly high-class event, and there will even be music in the background, so that the thrill of tasting wine will truly have another value. There is also a second part, the “Merano Wine Festival Digital”, and we will use the same formula to represent the producer just like at the “Merano Wine Festival”; that is, a table, selected wines, the technical sheet for the wines and links via Zoom. Online purchasing will also be possible, in collaboration with the Volta Group of Verona. All of these things will give further visibility and somewhat enhance the value that the “Merano Wine Festival” has created over these last 30 years”.
It is a certainty that setting up an event to include all these additional measures the Pandemic has imposed increases costs, and similarly limiting access to exhibitors and visitors, in principle, will decrease revenues. In general, this picture applies to all events, wine, and more. And with someone like Helmuth Kocher, who has been organizing wine events related to the “Merano Wine Festival” and “The Wine Hunter” for 30 years, and now also all over Italy, it is hard to understand whether the system of events itself will be able to endure this scenario for as long as it takes before things return to normal.
“I have been organizing the “Merano Wine Festival” since its first year. I totally and wholeheartedly believe in this project, and this year it is clear that the part of economic sustainability has become secondary, because otherwise we would have had to postpone the event. Obviously, if this situation persists, the territory, or rather the territories, will necessarily have to evaluate which events are worth supporting, integrating and sustaining, economically as well. As far as the “Merano Wine Festival” 2020 is concerned, I do not see any problems in the organization, nor do I see issues for the Siena event, which we are already planning for January 2021, evidently with the collaboration of the territory and institutions. The conditions and the bases are covered. There are spaces to maintain distances, as well as the bases to control public turnout; in other words, some of the basic things that I think can be guaranteed in all situations. Let me give you an example, this year I wanted to reorganize the part dedicated to bio dynamics. Therefore, I will take the rooms located at the Hotel Terme, and be able to arrange a maximum of 20 producers in this way, which obviously takes into account distances of at least one meter. However, this means that every day, during the 4 days of the event, I will change producers. So, then you need economic sustainability, and you must manage financing the event by spreading everything over several days, creating different moments, each unique, focusing exclusively on different companies on different days. It becomes like organizing a series of mini events under the umbrella of one big event”.

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