Wine consumer and product trends: What may change due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Part 3

By Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management and Claudia Schmidt, Assistant Professor  of Marketing and Food Systems 

Some pre-COVID-19 alcohol consumption trends 

Before the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders, several alcohol consumption trends were discussed widely:  

  • Gen Z drinking “over 20% less per capita than Millennials did at the same age” (Taylor, 2018). 
  • Millennials’ interest in alcoholic beverages (e.g., sprits, hard seltzers) over wine (Cerullo, 2020).  
  • The sober-curious movement “that is a natural outflow of plant-based eating and lifestyle diets” (Berry, 2019). 
  • The low- and no-alcohol movement (Neo and Lim, 2020).  

You can learn about these and other wine consumption trends by reading our March 20, 2020 blog post: https://bit.ly/33AHggM 

During our webinar, we asked attendees to indicate which of these trends they were familiar with or had heard about.  Their responses, segmented by whether they were in the industry or just curious about wine consumption trends, are reported in the following table. 

Which of the following trends have you heard about or are you familiar with? *

Participant typeGen Z consuming less alcohol than other generations (whey they were in their teens and early 20s)Millennials preferring spirits over wineThe sober-curious movementLow and no-alcohol (LNA) trend
Industry member (n=26)62%46%69%19%
Consumers/ Interested in Wine Industry (n=34)50%44%65%32%
*Percentages do not add to 100% as respondents could select more than one response.

As you can see, most attendees were familiar with or had heard about Gen Z’s alcohol consumption, Millennials preferences, and the sober-curious movement than the low and no-alcohol trend. 

How has our consumption changed since the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Several sources provide data as to how much consumption has changed during the pandemic.  We have highlighted a few that focus on the number of drinking occasions and consumption.  

Pertaining to the amount of alcohol (all types) that U.S. consumers drank between April 18 – 25, 2020, compared to pre-COVID-19: 

  • Approximately half drank the same amount of alcohol, 
  • 27% responded that they drank more, and  
  • 22% responded that they drank less.  

When segmented by age group: 

  • 33% of respondents age 35 to 54 (Older Millennials and Gen X) indicated that they drank more,  
  • as did 35% of those aged 21 to 34 (Gen Z and Younger Millennials; Nielsen CGA, 2020). 

For wine consumption, according to a survey Wine Intelligence conducted with regular U.S. wine consumers (defined as “those who drink wine at least once a month,” Halstead, 2019), the mean number of drinking occasions has increased.  In October 2019, the mean number of monthly drinking occasions was 9.3, which increased to 9.4 during the “pre-virus” period in March 2020 and then to 9.7 times per month during the March 2020 “lockdown” period (Abernathy, 2020a).  

When segmented by generation, the mean number of drinking occasions during the “lockdown” period, compared to the “pre-virus” period, increased the most for Millennials from 9.1 to 10.0 (Abernathy, 2020b).  The number of mean drinking occasions for all other generations, except for those in the Boomer generation, also increased.  

Source: Wine Intelligence, https://bit.ly/2XuRMoD 

Should it be a surprise that consumption increased due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

“When times are hard, people go back to what’s comforting or familiar — whether it’s mac and cheese or wine, beer and simple cocktails…People seek out sedatives as a way to take the edge off the panic. I’m not talking about addiction, but alcohol consumption does go up.” Julia Bainbridge, Bon Appétit, as quoted in Kendrick, 2020 

It has happened in the recent past: 

  • 2001 recession (8-month duration): “Alcohol volume sales grew year-over-year, totaling a 4 percent increase between 2001 to 2004.”  
  • December 2007 to June 2009 recession: “Sales growth was somewhat flat…only because of declining beer sales” (McKirdy, 2020).  

What do we expect to happen when this is “all over?” 

“Younger Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to remain in their pre-COVID-19 sober-curious state…They’re the newest to alcohol to begin with, so their habits haven’t been in place as long. The newer a behavior is for someone, the more likely they will abandon it during a time of stress…In general, though, sober curious is a strong trend, and it will come back when we get past this crisis — just not right away.”  Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, as quoted in Kendrick, 2020. 

We also asked the webinar attendees about their perception on when they think traffic will return to tasting rooms after they are allowed to resume normal activities. Interestingly, more than half of the consumer attendees (55 percent) believe this might happen between six months to one year. Industry members had a slightly more pessimistic view, as 41 percent responded that tasting room traffic will return to “normal” between one and two years.  

How much time do you think it will take for tasting room traffic to resume to pre-COVID-19 levels after businesses are allowed to resume normal activity? 

We will continue to share information about consumer wine consumption and purchasing as we progress through this pandemic period, and beyond.   

References 

Abernathy, C. 2020a. U.S. COVID-19 impact report issue #1. Wine Intelligence. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://www.wineintelligence.com/downloads/us-covid-19-impact-report-1/#tab-id-3 

Abernathy, C. 2020b. US drinkers have increased wine consumption during lockdown, led by more involved drinkers, as interest in locally produced wine surges. Wine Intelligence. Accessed June 4, 2020. https://www.wineintelligence.com/press-releases/press-release-us-drinkers-have-increased-wine-consumption-during-lockdown-led-by-more-involved-drinkers-as-interest-in-locally-produced-wine-surges/ 

Cerullo, M. 2020. Millennials prefer drowning a hard seltzer to uncorking some wine. CBS News. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/millennials-drive-first-decrease-in-wine-consumption-in-25-years/ 

Halstead, L. 2019. The plural drinker. Wine Intelligence. Accessed June 4, 2020. https://www.wineintelligence.com/the-plural-drinker/ 

Kendrick, J. 2020. 2020 was going to be the year of the sober-curious movement.  Now What? Huff Post. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sober-curious-movement-coronavirus_l_5e95da78c5b6cc788eafe644?guccounter=1 

McKirdy, T. 2020. Will the low- and no-ABV movement survive Covid-19? VinePair. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://vinepair.com/articles/coronavirus-impact-low-no-alcohol-movements/ 

Neo, P., and G.Y. Lim. 2020. Booze-free growth imminent: Low-to-no alcoholic beverages set to boom in APAC. Beverage Daily. Accessed March 11, 2020.  https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2020/03/12/Booze-free-growth-imminent-Low-to-no-alcoholic-beverages-set-to-boom-in-APAC 

Nielsen CGA. 2020. COVID-19 On premise impact report – Issue IV. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/4851710/Nielsen%20CGA/4.NIELSEN_CGA_ON_PREMISE_IMPACT_REPORT_4.pdf 

Taylor, K. 2018. Millennials are dragging down beer sales — But Gen Z marks a ‘turning point’ that will cause an even bigger problem for the industry. Business Insider Accessed June 4, 2020.  https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-gen-z-drag-down-beer-sales-2018-2 

Wine consumer and product trends: What may change due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Part 2

By Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management, and Claudia Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics

During our May 20, 2020 webinar, we focused on consumer willingness and readiness to visit restaurants and bars, travel for leisure, and what individual winery tasting rooms had done to prepare for consumer traffic.

When will they return to bars and restaurants and for what occasions?

For a few weeks, Nielsen CGA has published COVID-19 reports for “on premise” eating and drinking industries. The report published on April 29, 2020, “COVID-19 On Premise Impact Report – Issue IV,” included responses from 1,600 consumers who participated in a survey 24-27, 2020. Click on the following link to register for access to the report: https://www.nielsencga.com/covid-19/

One of the questions that consumers answered was “when they plan to return to bars and restaurants after shelter in place restrictions are lifted.” For the responses published in the report:

  • 28% “when venues demonstrate they can facilitate social distancing,”
  • 23% “once the number of COVID-19 cases doesn’t start to increase again,” 
  • 22% “soon as outlets reopen,” and
  • 19% would “return when the threat of COVID-19 is completely gone.”

When asked about the frequency with which they would visit bars and restaurants after the order is lifted, at least 60% “intend to return to bars/restaurants with the same or higher frequency,” with the following being the top reasons for returning:

  • To celebrate special occasions (75%),
  • have drinks with food (72%), and 
  • have romantic meals (70%).

As to what respondents would want on-premise food and drink businesses to do to prepare for their “initial visits,” as might be expected, half would want “fewer tables/patrons to accommodate social distancing.” Additional measures included:

  • Disposable/single-use menus, cutlery, drinkware,
  • contactless options for payment and ordering, and for takeout/delivery options to continue,
  • employees wear a mask and/or gloves, and customers must have their temperature checked, and  
  • certain types of alcohol available in cans and bottles. 

More recently, on May 27, 2020, Nielsen CGA released its sixth installment, which included data collected May 22-26, 2020 from 1,300 consumers residing in select metropolitan areas in states that have reopened on-premise restaurants and bars: Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. This report is also available for free via this link: https://bit.ly/2XcaSQd

Highlights from the report include:

  • A majority of those who visited and ate/drank at bars and restaurants, 88%, “were satisfied with their overall experience” and 90% were satisfied with “health and safety precautions” implemented.  
  • 42% of consumers visited bars and restaurants to have drinks with food, followed by 32% who were on premise for relaxed/quiet drinks (32%).

For the period during which Nielsen CGA collected data, 27% of participants age 21 to 34 had “been out to drink in the last 2 weeks,” followed by 16% of those 35 to 54, and 6% of respondents age 55 and older.

What about returning to travel and leisure?

According to a survey conducted in April 2020, one-third of consumers would return to leisure activities (e.g., airplanes, hotels, casinos) “without hesitation, right now” (Last, 2020).

Three-quarters “need at least two of multiple conditions to be met” to do so with the two most cited being:

  • “A COVID-19 vaccine or approved pharmaceutical protocol to mitigate the effects of the virus, along with assurance from a reputed U.S. medical authority.

What have winery tasting rooms done in preparation for visits?

In mid-May, an article published by Wine Industry Advisor (Vigna, 2020), provided insight into what wineries in various states had done to prepare for reopening their tasting rooms.  While not a complete list of the actions they took, we summarized them below. 

In addition to learning about tasting-room specific ideas, consider what general retail industry experts are proposing.  For example, an article written for Chain Store Age (Wilson, 2020) assembled a list of strategies that could also be helpful for tasting rooms when developing a comfortable and safe environment:

  • Creating an outdoor waiting area to accommodate more visitors than allowed into the tasting room at one time/those who arrive early for their tasting session.
  • Using bright lights to transform “dark, moody spaces [that] have the perception of being unclean” into ones that are “open [and] more welcoming” and declutter the interior space.
  • Consider what consumers will touch with their hands and consider how to redesign these spaces to be touchless. 

Create content to build and enhance relationships with customers

Educate consumers about the industry

  • How buying local products, including wine, supports the community.  For several decades, we have known about the positive economic impact of buying local.  In 2010, for each $100 spent at a local business, $73 “stayed” in the local economy, while only $43 of each $100 spent at a non-locally owned business “stayed” (Robinson and LaMore, 2010).  
    • You may have local entrepreneurs in your area that produce sauces, meat and dairy products, and other food items that you could involve in short videos about the local food environment and how to use and pair their products with your wine. 
  • Show what is happening in the vineyard throughout the year. Take and post photos showing budbreak, planting vines, bloom, harvesting grapes, what vines look like in late fall and winter.
Your vineyard provides a beautiful setting throughout the year. Why not post photos during each season? 
  • If you are using sustainable production methods, how and why?  According to an article published in January 2020, 23% more U.S. consumers were interested in sustainable food choices compared to January 2019 (Gelski, 2020).  The increase is based on “more than two billion social [media] interactions” that were analyzed by Tastewise (https://www.tastewise.io), which tracks the “latest culinary trends in real-time.”  Of the various sustainability trends, the top three social interactions on sustainability were: “health benefits” (39% of interactions), followed by “local” (15%) and “recycle” (13%). Which of these do your sustainability efforts support and that you can share with wine consumers?
  • How to pronounce varietal names, for example, Grüner Veltliner.  During a fall focus group session that our team conducted, we learned directly from consumers that if they have difficulty pronouncing a varietal name – they are less likely to ask for the wine out of fear for embarrassing themselves.  Think about how easy it would be to create videos you could share on social media sites and YouTube with tips on how to pronounce them.

Supporting the community 

  • Remind consumers about how to stay healthy in general, and how to prepare for vising your tasting room.  Showing consumers how to navigate your “new” tasting room using video instead of requiring them to read a lot of text.  For example, a local hair salon in State College, PA, Adam Cole Salon (adamcolesalon.com), not only provided a written document (posted on their Facebook Page and sent to customer email addresses) on how to prepare for an appointment, how the check-in procedure has changed, how credit cards will be handled, etc., but they created a step-by-step video that makes these processes easy to follow and puts clientele at ease: https://bit.ly/2XevgQQ
  • Inform consumers about what you did/are doing during the pandemic.  Did you shift your operation to one that produced hand sanitizer, use your facility as a distribution site for food, supplies, and similar for your local community, did you donate items to front line workers?

Provide entertaining and engaging content

  • While we mentioned this in a previous blog post, continue to create videos that help consumers learn how to store and serve wine.  Involve local chefs, who are also struggling, and interview them about wine pairings and food items on their takeout menus that would work well with your offerings.  
  • Include gamification, the “integration of game mechanics,” into your Instagram, Facebook, YouTube videos, and other posts.  For example, post questions about the winemaking process on one or more of these outlets and keep track of consumers who have the most correct responses.  By posting their progress on a “leader board” that ranks the top five or 10 followers who provided the correct responses, this adds an engaging element and may motivate followers and fans to return for additional opportunities to improve their ranking.  We will discuss gamification and how winery tasting room owners can create a strategy for their business in an upcoming post.

Learn from your customers

Last, but not least – use online surveys, ask questions on social media, query wine club members.  Here are just a few of the ideas we have as to what you can ask to learn what appeals to your customers, how to connect with them, and what will make your tasting room comfortable and safe for their visits.  

References
Gelski, J. January 23, 2020. Interest in sustainable food choices increases 23%. Food Business News. https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/15266-interest-in-sustainable-food-choices-increases-23

Last, J. April 15, 2020.  Path forward for sport, travel, leisure industries. The Marketing Insider. https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/350086/a-path-forward-for-sports-travel-leisure-industr.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline&utm_campaign=118082&hashid=-o2Um0N1IC1D1k2MriEx8Ft3jaY

Robinson, N. and R.L. LaMore. 2010. Why buy local? An assessment of the economic advantages of shopping at locally owned businesses.  Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development. https://ced.msu.edu/upload/reports/why%20buy%20local.pdf

Vigna, P. May 18, 2020. The first wineries re-opened this weekend, but restrictions still present a challenge. Wine Industry Advisor. https://wineindustryadvisor.com/2020/05/18/first-wineries-re-opened-restrictions-challenge

Wilson, M. May 22, 2020. Retail design looks to a new era. Chain Store Age.  https://chainstoreage.com/retail-design-looks-new-era?utm_source=omeda&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NL_CSA_Store+Spaces&utm_keyword=&oly_enc_id=6355D4948723A8Z

Wine E-commerce During Covid-19 and Beyond

By Claudia Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Marketing and Food Systems and Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management  

Across the United States, wine stores and winery tasting rooms had to close their doors to customers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While in-store purchases continued in grocery and other designated “essential business” premises (restaurant take out, etc.), albeit at a much-decreased rate, online purchases of alcoholic beverages have increased dramatically, as Nielson (2020) numbers show.   

Alcohol Weekly Sales Growth vs. Year Ago 

Data Source: Nielson, 2020

According to Nielson (2020), to balance out the restaurant and bar sales losses, the wine market would need 27% in volume growth. Complicating this further is the fact that many restaurants do offer wine and alcohol purchases with takeout orders, however, at much lower prices, which will keep total consumer spending on alcoholic beverages low. Among consume packaged goods (CPG), alcohol is the fastest-growing category when it comes to online sales.

What is happening in Pennsylvania? 

In Pennsylvania, non-essential businesses had to close on March 23. The graph below, from the Opportunity Insights project, shows just how dramatically overall consumer spending has decreased with the day of public-school closures on March 16. All non-essential businesses had to close on March 23. Total spending decreased by an estimated 13.3 percent since the beginning of the year (as of May 10).  

Percentage Change in Consumer Spending in Pennsylvania  

Source: Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker: https://tracktherecovery.org/ (accessed May 24, 2020) 

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) started its e-commerce venture on April 1 and made $58,713 in sales and, since then, has seen tremendous growth in online sales. PLCB started with its curbside pickup on April 20, 2020, and between April 1 and May, the PLCB made $16 million in e-commerce sales (excluding sales tax or shipping costs) (PennLive, 2020). To put these numbers in perspective, according to the PLCB annual report, the PLCB had sales of $2.67 billion (including liquor and sales taxes) in 2018/19 (PLCB, 2019), which is on average $222.5 million per month. E-commerce sales were only 5 million in 2018/19 (PennLive, 2020). On May 22 the PLCB opened additional stores and 283 Fine Wine & Good Spirits are now open, with public access limited to the county status (PLCB, 2020).  

Kathy Kelley and I hosted a webinar on May 20, 2020, “Wine Consumer and Product Trends: What May Change Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic”.  During the webinar, we asked participants about their perception if consumers will continue to online shop when restrictions are lifted. The graph below shows how the answers differed between the group of producers (vineyard, winery and tasting room owners) and consumers (interested in the industry or intending to start in the industry) that answered the poll question. While half of both groups believe that consumers will continue online purchases, but will prefer their purchases directly from wine stores, 48% of the consumer group and 33% of the producer group believe that consumers will split their purchases. Interestingly, relatively more participants from the industry see consumers continue to make most of their wine purchases online.  

What do you believe will happen to e-commerce sales when consumers are once again allowed to enter winery tasting rooms to sample wine and make purchases? 

During this time, it is important for wineries and tasting rooms to keep the connection to their customers strong. According to Nielson data, consumers’ willingness to experiment has decreased with the overall uncertainty. In a survey of 10,000+ alcohol consumers, 69 percent of the respondents said that they prefer to buy an alcohol brand they already know. In our next blog post, we will talk about some of the actions wineries can take to stay in touch with their customers.

Sources:  

Nielson.2020. Rebalancing the ‘CoVID-19 Effect’ on Alcohol Sales. Accessed on May 24, 2020: https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2020/rebalancing-the-covid-19-effect-on-alcohol-sales/ 

PLCB.2019. 2018/19 Annual Report. Accessed on May 24, 2020: https://www.lcb.pa.gov/About-Us/News-and-Reports/Documents/AR_2018-19_FINAL.pdf 

PLCB.2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Consumers. Accessed on May 24, 2020: https://www.lcb.pa.gov/Consumers/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx 

PennLive.2020. Liquor sales in Pa. break records during the coronavirus pandemic. Accessed on May 24, 2020:  https://www.pennlive.com/news/2020/05/liquor-sales-in-pa-break-records-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html 

Grape Disease Management Reminders: Bloom Through Bunch Closure – webinar review

by Dr. Mizuho Nita, Virginia Tech Grape Pathology Extension Specialist and Cain Hickey, Penn State Viticulture Extension Educator

Clusters are within the critical period for cluster protection at the pea-size berry stage

On Wednesday, May 27, Dr. Mizuho Nita presented the Grape Disease Management Reminders: Bloom Through Bunch Closure webinar as part of the Penn State Wine and Grape Team’s weekly webinar series. The webinar focused on optimal grape fungal disease management practices between bloom and bunch closure.

It is important to manage for Botrytis bunch rot during bloom and berry touch stages

The critical period for grape cluster fungal disease protection is between bloom and bunch closure, when grape clusters are highly susceptible to many pervasive fungal diseases. Powdery mildew, downy mildew, black rot, botrytis, ripe rot, and other fungal diseases can infect flowers and young berries. Integrated management options to optimize the control of these diseases during the early grape cluster developmental stage were covered. Please find a PDF version of Mizuho’s presentation here:

And access and follow Mizuho’s grape pathology blog here: http://grapepathology.blogspot.com.

Thanks for the presentation, Mizuho!

Michela Centinari and Cain Hickey will present the Canopy Fruit Zone Management webinar on Wednesday, June 3. This webinar will outline fruit zone management fundamentals in a humid climate and share data to help growers refine their practices. Register for this webinar here: https://bit.ly/2TruM7H.

Best wishes for dry and warm weather in the coming weeks to limit fungal disease pressure and optimize fruit set and crop potential in your vineyards!

Local Distillery Produces Hand Sanitizer during Coronavirus Pandemic

by Molly Kelly, Enology Extension Educator

Due to shortages brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, hand sanitizers are being produced in hundreds of distilleries around the country, including Nomad Distilling Company (formerly Mountain Top Distillery) in Williamsport, PA.  Owners Sarah and Frank Kudlack purchased Bastress Winery in March 2018. These Philadelphia natives have always been small business owners and investors. When her parents retired to the area in 2010

The Kudlack family

The Kudlack family (Photo by Caterina Photography)

the couple would come to visit. “Living on the side of a mountain wasn’t what we saw for our future”. After the birth of their first child they started imagining what the business could be and saw the purchase as more of a possibility. “The rest is history” added Sarah. The couple decided to focus on distilled spirits and phased out the winery. Frank decided to use his knowledge of science and math to try his hand at distilling.

In March of this year, the couple was on vacation pre-COVID-19. One week later everything changed. Sara had packed some hand sanitizer and wet wipes for her young child. Since this is the distillery’s slow season, the couple began thinking about their options. “We do have alcohol” her husband noted and mentioned producing hand sanitizer. This was before liquor stores closed and prior to all of the hand sanitizer publicity. Within a few days they had ordered 8000 bottles and capsules. After reading state and federal regulations they learned that the product must be USDA/FDA certified. FDA has issued guidance for the temporary preparation of alcohol-based hand sanitizers by some companies and pharmacies during the public health emergency posed by COVID-19.

nomad

Photo by Sarah Kudlack

Using the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended formulation they began producing sanitizer using out-of-pocket funds. The hand sanitizer is made with ethanol, glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and water resulting in a 99% kill rate for germs. Eventually they moved to a donation system in which larger organizations donated to cover production costs in return for sanitizer. This also allowed them to provide the product to some smaller organizations.

With liquor stores being closed at the beginning of the pandemic, sales increased but due to COVID-19 festivals have been cancelled impacting business.  The distillery is currently offering curb-side pickup. The couple believes strongly in supporting local businesses which can be difficult to do in a rural area. Sarah noted that she is impressed by how people have “shown up in miraculous ways” during the pandemic. From sewing masks, delivering food to nurses and providing meal kits for children out-of-school she hopes that we do not forget the support shown and that lessons learned will carry on. “Small businesses are the foundation of our community and they deserve our support”, she said.

nomad2

Photo by Sarah Kudlack

The couple has one additional large batch planned in this month but are waiting on capsules. The total number of bottles they produced is about 9,000 and at this point they plan on resuming production of distilled spirits. She noted that this will include shipping within PA and is working on distribution outside of PA. Some of the businesses that have benefited from the sanitizer include Walmart®, Smuckers®, UPMC and every post office within a thirty-mile radius. Additional beneficiaries include prison workers, nursing homes and hospice care. Sarah asked that we remember the efforts of small businesses and continue to support them. For more information please visit thier website at https://www.nomaddistilling.co/

Early season insect and disease management in vineyards – webinar review

by Dr. Flor Acevedo, Assistant Professor of Entomology and Arthropod Ecology, Andy Muza, Erie County Extension Educator, and Bryan Hed, Plant Pathology Research Technologist

The Early season insect and disease management in vineyards webinar was held on Wednesday, May 13. The following is a brief recap of information that was presented in that webinar.

IPM fundamentals; phylloxera and mealybugs (Flor). This presentation describes the basis of an integrated pest management program, emphasizes the use of economic thresholds to make control decisions, stresses the importance of using diverse pest control methods to prevent insecticide resistance, and describes two early-season insects pests: Phylloxera and mealybugs. Here is the link to Flor’s presentation: Early_Season_Pest_Management_1

Early season insect management (Andy). This presentation covers nine insects that may appear in vineyards from Bud Swell – Immediate Prebloom stages with accompanying photographs of pests and injury. Also included are practices which are integral to an Integrated Insect Pest Management Program and reference sites for additional information. Here is the link to Andy’s presentation: Early Season Management of Insects in Vineyards – Webinar

Early season disease management (Bryan). This presentation delivers a review of the major diseases that affect grapes in spring and early summer, including Phomopsis cane and leaf spot, black rot, and powdery and downy mildew. The presentation will help growers to i) identify diseases in the field, ii) become familiar with the kinds of weather conditions that contribute to disease development, and iii) how to manage the major diseases during pre bloom and early post bloom stages with chemical and cultural controls. Lastly, we also present the newest chemistries available for control of the major diseases. Here is the link to Bryan’s presentation: Webinar series_Early season disease management_May 13

Dr. Mizuho Nita, Grape Pathology Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech, will present the next webinar, Grape Disease Management Reminders: Bloom Through Bunch Closure, on Wednesday May 27th. Here is a short description of the webinar: “The critical period for grape cluster fungal disease protection is between bloom and bunch closure when grape clusters are highly susceptible to many pervasive fungal diseases. Powdery mildew, downy mildew, black rot, Botrytis, ripe rot, and other fungal diseases, can infect flowers and young berries. I will cover integrated management practice options to optimize the control of these diseases during the early grape cluster developmental stage.” Here is the registration link to the webinar: https://extension.psu.edu/grape-disease-management-reminders-bloom-through-bunch-closure

Warmer temperatures have finally arrived in PA… let’s hope these weather patterns remain and we have warm and dry weather over the next several weeks. Best wishes to all!

Early season canopy management – webinar review

Cain Hickey, Viticulture Extension Educator, Penn State Extension

The Penn State Wine and Grape Team held its first webinar of the “2020 weekly webinar series” on Wednesday, May 6th. Here is a link to the slides that were presented during the “Early Season Canopy Management” webinar: Early season canopy management 6 May 2020

Shoot thinning was primary topic covered throughout the webinar. Shoot thinning is best implemented between the 5″ and 18″ shoot growth stages (as soon as inflorescences can be visualized to determine fruitful vs. unfruitful shoots but before tendrils grab neighboring shoots). However, some may wish to delay shoot thinning until the threat of frost has passed or until after the extent of frost damage can be determined (as may be the case in some vineyards this year). Optimal shoot densities are generally between 4 and 6 shoots per linear foot of row, or 24 to 36 shoots per vine in vineyards with between-vine spacing of 6 feet (see below photo for an ideal shoot density). Many will be out shoot thinning their vineyards in PA in the forthcoming weeks. For more on shoot thinning, please see the above slides from the webinar or reference this publication: https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201152_1.PDF

Shoot thinning density example_Merlot

Shoot positioning was a topic covered in the May 6th webinar. Shoot positioning is ideally started around bloom; shoot positioning is often needed through the pea-size berries and bunch closure growth stages. Shoot positioning is easiest before tendrils grab neighboring shoots in order to preclude shoot breakage and optimize practice efficiency. Shoot positioning improves canopy light interception and limits fruit zone congestion. While shoot positioning is important in all training systems, proper positioning is particularly critical in divided canopy systems [see below photos of well-positioned shoots in a VSP (top) and Watson (bottom) training system].

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Fruit zone leaf and lateral removal was a topic also covered in the May 6th webinar. The first fruit zone leaf removal pass is best implemented between bloom and BB-size berries growth stages. Exposing grape clusters at early growth stages allows berries to acclimate to increased radiation levels from an early development stage and also aids fruit zone spray penetration during critical stages for cluster disease protection. Fruit zone leaf and lateral thinning near bunch closure and veraison stages can help manage late season bunch rots. Retaining fewer than an average of 1.5 fruit zone leaf layers can reduce Botrytis bunch rot relative to retaining an average of 3.0 fruit zone leaf layers (see figure in the above slides from the May 6th webinar). Fruit zone leaf removal is used to manipulate fruit composition (color, acidity, phenolics, aromatics) and therefore wine sensory characteristics. The Cabernet Sauvignon cluster (below), which was harvested from a highly shaded fruit zone, exemplifies how reduced airflow and radiation can result in rot and poor color development. For more on fruit zone management, see the above slides from the webinar and join our forthcoming webinar (by Dr. Michela Centinari and myself) on June 3rd.

poor color and rot in CS cluster

Shoot hedging was the final topic covered in the May 6th webinar. Shoot “topping” (if shoots are vertically trained) or “skirting” (if shoots are downward trained) will generally commence near the pea-size berries stage. Vigorous vineyards will require multiple hedging passes throughout the season. The goal of shoot hedging is to manage vegetative growth to limit canopy self shading (see photos, below) and prevent shoots from being damaged by tractors and ATVs. Shoot hedging improves canopy airflow and spray penetration. Lateral shoots will need trimmed as well, particularly after breaking apical dominance in primary shoots after the first hedging pass.

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Here are links to publications that outline seasonal viticulture and pest management practices based on vine phenology (growth stage): https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C1151 (University of Georgia, spotted lanternfly not included); https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/ENTO/ento-339/ENTO-339.pdf (Virginia Tech, spotted lanternfly included). The intention of these publications are to inform readers about timely implementation of vineyard management practices.

Best wishes for a great start to the 2020 season!