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Final Thoughts Regarding Wine Future 2009

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As you all know, Ryan and I went to Wine Future with a team of 4 additional people: Michael Oudyn, Raymond Magourty, Eduardo Benito and Juan Manuel Gonzalvo. Robert McIntosh was also a key player on our team, adding an immense amount to the Live Blog and Twitter stream, while perfectly balancing his other hat as a Dinastia Vivanco representative. All of these people deserve full recognition for their fantastic work, determination and passion in making our Wine Future social media campaign work seamlessly. We are very proud of each of their contributions, and hope this is just one of many campaigns we can work as a solid team.

That said, many people have asked for a personal wrap-up article on what we thought of Wine Future. Ryan will be giving you his perspective as a speaker in the coming days, but for now, there are three areas I’d like to cover regarding Wine Future: live blogging, conference organizing and the content provided. (picture taken on the Marques de Riscal 2nd floor patio)

Live Blogging

Over the years, we’ve live blogged a handful of events, but never have we buckled down and committed ourselves to this degree. Consequently, there were a few things we took away from the experience. Despite our continual reminders that this was a live blog, and not a direct transcript of the event, many people found themselves quoting directly from our text, rather than taking information contextually. This posses an interesting problem for anyone live blogging. As I’m typing as fast as humanly possible to garner as much information as I possible can in the shortest amount of time, the information I’m providing is not necessarily in context, but rather in bullet point fashion. Therefore, should a live blog provide information contextually? Is our goal to write down as much as we possibly can for your to decipher? How can we do this successfully?

Interestingly, I believe that the live blogging tool, as we know it now, will change dramatically in a very short amount of time. I see live stream video being played in a live blog, which would eliminate the need for us to “transcribe”. Our future role will be to upload photos, monitor comments and add our experiences when appropriate. However, this is not the case today, requiring us to garner more feedback as to what you want from someone live blogging. In what ways can we offer you the information you want successfully?

The Organization of Wine Future

IMG_2613Generally speaking, I think that Wine Future was a huge success on an organizational level. Having organized the EWBC with 130 people over 3 days, I can tell you that herding 1,000 people for 2 days is no easy feat. It takes impeccable timing, an amazing team and beyond all else, really good luck. I give Pancho Campo and his team huge kudos for not only pulling off an event of this caliber – despite the attention his extracurricular activities are requiring at the moment, but also to do it seamlessly. I dare say that I’m not entirely confident that I could do the same.

Where does improvement lie? Clearly, the focus next event should be on tools we can use to better the wine industry, rather than taking those 15 minutes for speakers to push their product and/or company. In my opinion, it is the organizers responsibility to be clear with each and every speaker as to what their role is. Secondarily, lunches should not be an act of extreme “hunting and gathering”, as experienced on both Thursday and Friday. Instead, there should be a balance between buffet items and tapas served by waiters roaming the floor. Thirdly, the grand tasting should have enough empty table space that people can write their notes on paper or a computer without knocking over glasses. Fourthly, we need to be eco-friendly. Organizers should cut down on paper (as seen in the speakers gift bag), consider asking producers to eliminate heavy bottles from their pouring table, and find any and all ways to promote sustainability whenever possible. Finally, technology needs to be adequately thought through, and acted upon, before a “futuristic” event is pulled off. Ample outlets and powerstrips should be provided, and open WIFI needs to be available to everyone, rather than requiring hacking jobs or secret networks.

The Content of Wine Future

This was truly a hit or miss situation, where approximately 30% of the speakers did a stellar job focusing on innovative solutions, while the other 70% focused on their amazing accomplishments as an individual or a company. The overall topics, however, were generally interesting, and could have had a major impact if done well.

Where we succeeded as a conference, however, was the final take-away message. Despite the ebb and flow in quality of content, almost all the speakers concluded that our future focus must be on the following: listening to and acting on consumer needs; researching new technologies that will dramatically impact the way we communicate our message; adopting viticultural techniques and packaging that respect nature; reducing overhead and consolidating portfolios in order to survive tough economic times. Every one of these messages are powerful and need to be heard, and adopted, by each and every one of us in our own lives. If the message truly sunk in, I couldn’t be more pleased.

The question being, what did we need to hear? What topics weren’t discussed that should of? For me, there were two major gaps that needed to be discussed that weren’t: winemaking techniques and wine education. Other than sustainability, winemakers had a very small role in presenting their view of wine’s future, which I fear was a major pitfall. Additionally, wine education was narrowed to encouraging membership, rather than debating pedagogy and effective teaching techniques.  My hope that that wine future will give these two areas the rightful place they deserve. (photo by vivancowineculture)

Summary

As with all conferences, the first one is always an act of experimentation, and as long as the organizers listen to the feedback given, I can only expect improvement.

Was the content worth the money spent per ticket? I’ve heard mixed reviews on this. Some say absolutely, others feel less optimistic. We personally had a great run at the conference, taking networking opportunities where we could. So for us, it was worth it.

My question to you is: what topics do you feel are imperative to discuss for the future of wine?

Cheers,

Gabriella Opaz

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