Wine Future 2021: Highlights from Days 1 and 2

In 2018, wine industry thought leaders developed The Porto Protocol which states:

As wine producers, we strongly support and sustain rural communities and landscapes. Many of our vineyards are located in areas of great natural beauty, with rich histories and unique ecologies that we are committed to preserve. 

The conversation continued in 2019 at the  Conference about Climate Change & Wine Industry held again in Porto, Portugal. In 2019, the conference faced the climate challenge head on featuring former Vice President Al Gore, poster boy and presenter of An Inconvenient Truth (2006) which opened the eyes of many Americans to the challenges we face with regards to global warming and climate change.

I really wanted to attend the 2019 conference, but when in 2021, the Wine Future conversation went virtual with participants from all over the world converging from 4-8pm Madrid time– or 7am-11am Pacific time where I live in California– I could. And I did as a member of the press.  What follows are some of the more important points from my notes from Wine Future 2021 Days 1 and 2 followed by notes from Days 3 and 4

Because of the time zone, getting registered as press, and other commitments, the first session I caught was #4: EXPECTING THE UNEXPECTED with Chile’s Manuel Louzada (CEO of Almaviva) and Mike Ratcliffe (Co-Founder, Vilafonté  and Chairman, Stellenbosch Wine Routes, South Africa) with  moderator Robert Joseph, Editor of The Wine Thinker.

Take away: There are “known knowns” (financial downturns, climate, human error, earthquakes), “known unknowns” (look at other actors and countries– what if what happened to them happens to us?), and  unknown unknowns (can’t prepare for so better deal with other two).

Quote paraphrasing Manuel Louzada: young people drinking rose and Malbec from Argentina opens the door to more “serious” wines. 

Question: is wine too cheap and margins too small to deal with ongoing problems trying to deal with the expected and the unexpected unknowns? 

A KEYNOTE SPEECH from MANUEL BUTLER, UN WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION INTERNATIONAL WINE TRAVEL & TOURISM discussed how Covid-19 brought global tourism to a standstill, leaving millions of people to turned to national travel experiences, and making the time right to advance toward a more economically, social and environmentally sustainable tourism model. Gastronomy and wine tourism together represent an opportunity to revitalize and diversify tourism, promote local and sustainable economic development, and involve these varying professional sectors to bring new uses to the primary tourism sector.

Take away: In China domestic travel is back to normal and resilient when compared to other countries. He expects continued travel restrictions but that the vaccine is expected to restore consumer confidence. In developing a link between sustainability and resilience, he suggests there’s an opportunity to rethink travel and sustainability, specifically wine tourism in rural areas. With people eager to travel, encourage them to go to rural wine regions and focus on health and sustainability. Integrate wine tourism into regional approaches of tourism.

In “STRATEGIZING WITH DATA RESEARCH & ANALYTICS” with NZ’s Polly Hammond (Founder & Managing Director, 5Forests), Paul Mabray (CEO, Pix), and AU’s Dan Sims (Founder & CEO, REVEL) moderated by Gergely Szolnoki (Professor of Market Research, Geisenheim University), the session focused on how difficult marketing without effective data and market research, and computational analytics as an integral part of the sales and marketing strategies. 

Quote: Paul Mabry “retention is the new acquisition.” 

He urges wineries to communicate better so they have happier customer. This requires software that addresses the “need to build a better mousetrap.” Customers “live in a world of infinite wine choices.”

So why should customers choose your wine? Not every customer is the same, so we need to treat them differently and measure them differently, says Paul. 

Quote Dan Sims: “think about audience instead of customer.” 

AU’s Dan Sims (Founder & CEO, REVEL) worked as a sommelier for many years and he brings that perspective into his approach to wine sales and marketing. Somms have thirty seconds to a minute to match the food someone is ordering to the wine they will enjoy with it. 

I think it was Polly who pointed out the danger on using old data that came from someone else, that what happens at the table and the tasting room, what happens in hospitality is create in real time — and fast–data points about a customer

Wine is built on hand selling realtime. When the world doesn’t allow you to stand in front of someone with these hospitality skills what do you do? 

Paul pointed out that every data source has bias. You can’t apply to “long tail products” super market data. “What we learned from COVID is adaptation is key to survivability,” he said.  COVID was/is an extinction level event. Those wineries and business that survive will do so because they understand customers

Paul: we make a product out of passion and we don’t think about the customer.

Many winemakers I know are trying to make it for themselves, something they think is worthy, that reflects the best expression of place and produce. 

OR the wine is simply a product made for consumers only. We need to understand our customers and target them to reach them.

Old world wine business has been less consumer-centric while new world wineries understand the consumer’s desires before making a product. Understanding who you are targeting important.

Dan talked about nurturing your audience– that it is one thing to make wine, and another to sell it. Wine is made to be drunk, consumed.  

Paul: consumed multiple times! 

In CONNECTING IN OUR NEW REALITY: THE FUTURE OF EXHIBITIONS & TASTINGS, Stevie Kim (Managing Director, Vinitaly International), Rodolphe Lameyse (CEO, Vinexposium), and Bastian Mingers (Project Director, ProWein) with moderator Martin Reyes (President & Founder, Reyes Wine Group LLC) discussed how fairs and tastings have adapted.

Stevie Kim discussed a Chinese character that represents change and opportunity, and I will relisten to this session so I can get better notes on what she said because I found it really intriguing and thoughtful.  

Covid allowed a rethink of the value of the wine industry, and that they are not just an organizer of an exhibition, but aggregators and facilitators. 

Takeaway: Because of COVID, changes are here to stay, for example the hybrid and online content delivery of conferences.

But exhibits are like a circus –a big tent comes to town, meetings happen and after it’s over, important connections remain. Discussions, tastings, enriching experiences can happen all year long. We will always have and love in-person events where connections can be made organically and synchronistically.

In MULTINATIONAL ENGAGEMENTS: TRADE, TRANSPORT, PACKAGING, EMBARGOES with António Amorim (CEO, Amorim), Subhash Arora (President, Indian Wine Academy), Pierre Corvisier (Global Director New Services, Hillebrand) and Siobhan Thompson (CEO, Wines of South Africa) with Moderator Mónica Muñoz (President, Mercados del Vino y la Distribución), these experts in trade discussed packaging and transport

Take away: Subhash Arora said that until recently India was not allowed to import or grow and export wine. High taxes, big problem with regulations and bureaucracy remain but India has a great capacity to increase consumption and production, and there’s a tremendous potential. 

That’s what I got out of Days 1 and 2– that parts that I was able to attend and get notes for! 

Up next, to be published tomorrow, was the most interesting, inspiring, and influential session for me, the session on WINE TOURISM: TOWN & COUNTRY with Adrian Bridge (CEO, The Fladgate Partnership), Sylvie Cazes (Director General, Bordeaux Saveurs) and Gonzalo Merino (Wine Tourism & Social Responsibility Coordinator, Bodegas de Argentina) with moderator: Michèle Shah (Export Consultant, Italian Wines / Founder, SpeedTasting) discussing how wine tourism has expanded to become foundational to the financial existence of many wineries both new and old, and grown to be an urban as well as rural phenomenon. 

I will definitely listen to this session again!

ALSO coming tomorrow, the rest of my notes (2700 words– twice as many as in this post, but I’ll edit it down so it’s more manageable). From Days 3 and 4 I’ll be sharing highlights from the sessions on:

  • TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY (this session also offered a lot of ideas to me!)

Wine Future 2021 supports three Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with a silent auction: SOS Cape Town in South Africa, The Porto Protocol in Portugal, and North Bay Jobs with Justice in California. Check out the lots posted here. The auction will close on March 15, 2021 with all proceeds benefiting the NGOs.






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