French wine tasters fear COVID-19 dulled senses

Like so many infected with the coronavirus, Sophie Pallas lost her sense of taste and smell.

As an oenologist, or wine taster, they're senses upon which her livelihood depends.

And she's had to retrain her palate:

"I've tasted it little by little. I told you about tropical fruits, and it took me some concentration, more than usual, to find the flavour of pineapple, while before, it would have come up a lot more spontaneously and strongly. I think I still have some work to do to get back this speed of perception."

Pallas' story underlines the pandemic's risk not just to France's multi-billion dollar wine industry, but to other jobs that rely on finely tuned tastebuds or noses.

Including chefs, parfumiers and chocolatiers.

But it's France's wine industry that's particularly worried.

A survey of more than 2,600 industry professionals showed that among those who had caught COVID-19, more than a third said the disease had affected their ability to do their work.

Student wine tasters have also dropped out of courses after falling ill with the virus.

Didier Fages is President of the Union of Oenologists:

"It's like a musician who lost their instrument. Can we ask a musician to play without a violin?"

Fages says the body has written to President Emmanuel Macron to ask for wine tasters be moved to the front of the line for the vaccine.