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Coronavirus: Italian winemakers want to convert unsold stock into hand sanitiser

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By Filippo Fiorini
Lambrusco wine at a winery near Reggio Emilia, central Italy.
Lambrusco wine at a winery near Reggio Emilia, central Italy.   -   Copyright  PangeaNews/Filippo Fiorini

Winemakers in Italy want to convert their unsold stock into hand sanitising gel, which is in high demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

They have excess wine in their tanks after the country's long lockdown left restaurants and bars closed. 

Now, with the new harvest season approaching, they are keen to free up space and help ease shortages of sanitiser.  

"I've been a winemaker here in Scandiano, Reggio-Emilia, for 30 years," said Davide Frascari, the president of Lambrusco Wine Consortium. 

"But I have never seen our tanks full at the end of May. Grapes are already visible and we have to take action."

Farming union Confagricoltura has asked the Italian government for authorisation to turn the wine into sanitiser. It wants a quick response from Rome and, in addition, financial support for the operation. 

Distilleries stand ready to help. 

"This measure will be positive because it’s going to make it easier for wine producers to sell their stock and it will help us, the distillers, to have enough raw material for the hand-gel production," said Antonio Emaldi, distillery manager in Ravenna, central Italy, and president of the national union of distillers (ASSODIL).

But not all winemakers appear to be willing to use their wine for such purposes.

Giuseppe Prestia, who runs a five-hundred-year-old farm near Reggio Emilia, central Italy, says such an operation would be "unthinkable".

"Organic wineries like us work on high-end products that couldn't be used to make hand sanitisers," he said. 

"What we ask the EU and the Italian government is to invest in our business to allow us to survive this crisis."