There’s been one unmissable headline in March as coronavirus has hit every person and business in the UK – and wine makers, retailers and drinkers haven’t escaped that.

It’s been a challenging month for events globally, but everything from wine tastings to national conferences have been cancelled or postponed. In unprecedented times, the norm has been tipped on its head. While pubs and bars have been forced to closed, supermarkets and wine merchants have been put under enormous strain both in store and online, and buyers desperate to stock up on wine have been turning to their local vineyards.

The most notable cancellation from the UK wine calendar is the London Wine Fair, planned to take place on 18-20 May, 2020. As the Government increased restrictions on events it became less likely that the show could take place. 

The organiser issued a statement on
20 March, which read: “It is with a heavy heart that Hemming Group Ltd is postponing London Wine Fair 2020. It remains inconclusive as to when, or for how long the Government might place restrictions on mass gatherings in the UK. Nonetheless the London Wine Fair team has taken the difficult decision to postpone this much-loved event. 

“We are keenly aware that the developing Covid-19 pandemic is putting immense pressure on not only the events industry, but the drinks industry and the hospitality industry. We value our position at the heart of both and will always make decisions with them front of mind.”

The Raw Wine Fair, which was supposed to take place in Covent Garden on 8-9 March also had to postpone its event. However, we don’t know when these will take place in the future. 

Although some vineyards attempted to keep their doors open for tours and tastings, with social distancing and increased cleaning in place, once Boris Johnson made his announcement on 23 March, it was no longer possible. The following day, social media and inboxes were flooded with cancellations, postponements and offers of delivery services. 

The International Wine Challenge (IWC) also decided to move its judging process to November 2020 and results will be published just before the Christmas trading period. 

All existing entries will be transferred automatically to the new judging dates. The IWC aims to process all wines entered in the coming weeks ahead of a UK lockdown. All wines will then be stored in a temperature controlled wine warehouse until November. The Merchant Awards UK will be judged keeping to the original timeline with an award announcement in July. 

Following signs of life returning to normal in mainland China, IWC China will remain open and will be judged in June as planned. More information here: 

Chris Ashton, Director of IWC said: “We have been following UK Government and WHO advice and although the tasting may be small enough to be allowed to run, the fact that the judges come from all over the world makes it too significant a risk to all. Obviously, this is a very difficult situation for everyone and things are changing rapidly. I thank you for your patience and support and hopefully we will all be able to be prepared for when the virus is brought under control.”