“Communication requires more attention by professionals interested in selling, promoting, teaching and even making wine, as it clearly affects every aspect of the sector.” Those are the thoughts of Steve Kim, founder and the creative thinker behind the breakthrough wine2wine event that is back in November for its first post-Covid in-person event. It’s also why she and her team have decided to put “wine communications” at the heart of what will be the ninth wine2wine event with a series of talks, seminars and debates designed to share what wineries, producers, businesses, writers, influencers and communicators are doing to tell their stories about wine in their own creative way.
If you are looking to go the wine2wine Business Forum in Verona in November 7-8 here is Stevie Kim’s personal guide to what you can expect.
The wine2wine Business Forum is back for a full live conference – can you let us know what delegates can expect and what your main objectives are?
Now in its ninth edition, the wine2wine Business Forum returns to Verona on 7 and 8 November with a 100% in person edition. The Forum is organized by Vinitaly and Veronafiere in collaboration with MAECI – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation – and ITA – Italian Trade Agency – as part of the national branding campaign “BeIT – Italy is simply Extraordinary”. The main focus of the event is Wine Communication, which will be considered alongside other topical issues, confirming the event as the benchmark forum for wine business professionals and those seeking opportunities in the field.
In an increasingly fast-moving global context, the forum’s overall objective is to support professionals take their businesses to the next level, by providing authoritative and up-to-date insights across all aspects of the wine sector, from markets and education to trade and sustainability.
Who do you see as the key audience and the best people to attend wine2wine?
Over the years, wine2wine has established its reputation for offering a comprehensive program of events and workshops for both producers and a great variety of wine professionals. Whether you are a buyer, importer, marketing specialist, communicator, wine writer or educator, wine2wine Business Forum provides an invaluable opportunity to get up to speed with the issues currently facing the sector and network with some of the most important voices in the industry. Wine professionals should not underestimate the importance of wine2wine Business Forum as a crucial point of reference and an opportunity for professional contact.
What specific themes and issues will you be looking to address at this year’s conference?
The main focus of the conference this year is wine communication. As the wine sector emerges from a two-year global pandemic and faces the increased costs and challenges posed by the current international situation, effective communication has never been so important. Recent events and circumstances have forced wine industry to reconsider, reshape, and even revolutionise its communication and marketing strategies. New concepts in communication have to reflect the impact of the pandemic and adapt to the so-called “new normal”. Innovative communication solutions evolved in unprecedented circumstances, those that were initially considered temporary are now here to stay, and strategies and tools that were successful in the past are now ineffective and must be revised or even abandoned altogether.
Wine communication is a topic that is too often overlooked. Typically, the initial and final stages of the supply chain are the centers of attention, particularly production, sales, and export. However, the mid-chain represents an entire world of people, tools, and techniques where communication is the common thread. Communication requires more attention by professionals interested in selling, promoting, teaching and even making wine, as it clearly affects every aspect of the sector. Every wine professional – irrespective of their role – must effectively convey the right message to the right audience. Succinct, modern, accessible communication is the key to optimizing results at every stage of the supply chain.
Communication will be explored in detail and from a range of different angles. Sessions focused on traditional forms of communication, such as PR, publishing, blogs, and the press, will prepare the stage for an open debate on the evolution of these resources, practices that no longer deliver results, and how to adapt to the current global context. Digital media will have a prominent role at the Forum. Sessions will range from social networks and digital marketing tools to podcasts and NFTs. These new communication tools must push back against the old school mindset of tradition and elitism in order to reach a younger generation of consumers whose lifestyles are built in the digital world.
The ninth editionʼs focus on wine communication will go hand in hand with other key aspects of the wine business. The sessions will be organized in traditional thematic paths dealing with topics from marketing strategies to market trends, from wine trade to sustainability, and inclusion. Always a popular track, Foreign Markets – mainly sponosored by ITA – Trade Agency – will offer analyses of various countries and trends around the world.
You are also positioning this year’s event as Back to Basics… What do you mean by that?
We thought of “Back to Basics” as opposed to “Back to Normal”, something you often hear or read these days. We have a new kind of normal today, and we will never go back to the pre-pandemic situation. We can go “Back to Basics” though, back to the foundamentals of communication and networking.
After two years of virtual or hybrid editions, wine2wine Business Forum is returning with an exclusively in-person edition. Intentionally provocative, the 2022 Forum presents “Networking 3.0” and aims to involve all participants in a more direct and personal way. Offering the opportunity to create a network of enduring professional relationships based on personal contact and mutual trust has always been at the heart of the wine2wine Business Forum’s objectives.
The global pandemic and resulting restrictions on travel and interpersonal contacts forced the entire professional wine community to develop alternative ways of networking; a ”2.0” mode which, inevitably, moved to digital and remote connections. However, their intense and prolonged use in recent years has caused a particular type of stress, a so-called “virtual fatigue” that wine2wine Business Forum wants to help alleviate.
Virtual fatigue will be eliminated at wine2wine Business Forum, with no apps, live-streaming or chats available to participants. Instead, the Forum will encourage and challenge both speakers and audience to listen to each other’s living voices and build professional bridges through face-to-face interaction. Rumour has it that a desk will be set up at the entrance of the forum where cellphones will be requisitioned from all guests to help them detach themselves even more from the virtual and be physically in the moment, in the here and now… but that is something the legal consultant has not yet confirmed.
You have set sessions on northern Europe, Africa and China – why have you chosen these areas and what will you be looking to address?
Northern-Europe, Africa, and China in particular will be pin-pointed for their growth potential and/or changes experienced in recent years.
Presented by Åsa Johansson, Per Buhl, Margareta Lundeberg, Nina Witikka and Marius Odland, a panel dedicated to northern Europe will provide an overview of the market and analysee the trends and practices of different countries in the region. Sweden and Norway are especially open markets for wine products from abroad due to their lack of domestic wine production. Furthermore, in many northern European countries, the number of wine consumers is constantly growing, and the need to satisfy this rising demand drives growth for imports. Exporters must also navigate the powerful state monopolies in northern Europe. The international panel will explore with the audience how to overcome market restrictions and access appropriate distribution channels. Consumer trends in those regions will also be considered, particularly in relation to Italian wine.
Five specialists from the African market will lend their knowledge to illustrate its continuing importance and growth. Moderator Temitope Akintola, and speakers Nico Smit, Soraiya Ladak, Vanessa Koko Djaba, Victor Ikem and Amir Bakhouche, will discuss tools and strategies useful for accessing this potentially important market for Italian wine. The African wine market represents one of the fastest growing geographic areas, with United Nations data estimating that, by 2050, 25% of the world population will be African. This session will take a look at the rapid expansion of the middle class that major areas such as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya are experiencing, and what this means for the global wine market.
A 2017 report by Vinexpo and IWSR predicted that by 2020 China would overtake Britain and France to become the second largest wine consumer in the world after the United States. However, subsequent events have disproved this projection. The slowdown in the country’s economy, the pandemic, and China’s inflexible “zero COVID” policy, have led to radical changes. To shed light on the situation, wine2wine Business Forum offers sessions on China and its wine market. Natalie Wang will decode the data and assess the country’s growth potential, as well as whether or not China remains an attractive market for Italian wine. Alberto Orengia’s analysis will focus on underlying forces in China that are influencing the alcoholic beverages market. He will also share specific strategies for running a successful distribution business and communicating effectively with the Chinese audience.
Any particular new speakers you would like to flag up?
As the main theme of this edition of wine2wine Business Forum is wine communication, most of the new entries among this year’s speakers are experienced professionals in that field. Konstantin Baum MW, for example, is (to date) Germany’s youngest Master of Wine, and will speak about his experience on YouTube and how to use that platform to communicate his message (see above). Konstantin created one of the most successful wine YouTube channels, which today has nearly 86,000 subscribers and is still growing. Napa Valley award winning Sommelier Amanda McCrossin, on the other hand, will present an analysis of TikTok and tips on how to leverage its short video format. In a year, she went from not even having a TikTok profile to managing an account in the wine niche with more than 150,000 followers.
Traditionally, among the “stars” of the wine2wine Business Forum program are also the sessions and speakers who will focus on markets. In fact, also returning for the ninth edition are the Market Focuses, mostly sponsored by ITA – Italian Trade Agency, with analysis on particular countries and trends of interest to the wine world. Among those, in the spotlight will be established markets such as the United States, China, and Japan and markets to keep an eye on for growth potential and recent developments such as Northern Europe and Africa. Details of all the speakers for this theme track are available on the event website.
For the first time this year, we have launched a partnership with several agencies and newspapers specializing in wine communication. A round table on wine journalism, with experienced Italian reporters in the sector, will discuss the current status of journalism, its strengths and weaknesses, and its role for Italian wineries. Another discussion panel spotlights representatives of important Italian wine guides, analyzing the future for these publications.
What do you see as the biggest issues facing the wine industry at the moment?
The global wine industry is now facing several issues: climate change, incuding weather variance, drought, and natural disasters; rising costs of fuel and of producing glass bottles; increasing labour costs; effects of current geopolitics; changes in consumer behavior. The wine2wine Business Forum wants to create the right environment to discuss these challenges and explore possible solutions. Also, since the main focus 2022 is wine communication, it wants to help companies and wine professionals be ready to communicate in times of crisis.
What are the biggest opportunities and areas for growth and potential?
First of all, much can be done to raise the awareness on the importance of wine communication, and to improve the communication of wineries and wine professional in general. Understanding and taking advantage of the best practices behind wine communication and its changes over time is key to obtaining successful results in every step in the supply chain. That is the reason why this year’s edition of the Forum takes a deep dive into what is current, what has changed, and what is coming next.
The audience will have the opportunity to explore diverse types of communicating and how to use them effectively across all sectors of the wine industry. Rather than seeing wine communication simply as words, images, and paragraphs, wine2wine Business chooses to examine wine communication through the lens of its people. The Forum does this by bringing together the voices of different protagonists in the realm of wine communication and providing them with opportunities for networking and face-to-face dialogue.
Wine communication will gain increasing importance for the future of wine business. Wine producers especially are moving away from concentrating exclusively on the production process within the winery and in the vineyards, and beginning to focus on the large audience out there waiting to engage with wineries and wine brands that are willing to ramp up their marketing and start selling themselves in a more personal and direct manner. The next evolution in the wine industry will be driven by how well businesses and professionals in the sector can use these new models and strategies to aquire more custumers, connect with them and keep them.
How was wine2wine Business Forum developed over the years?
The original goal of this event was to offer wine industry professionals an opportunity to training and updating. The first experiments consisted of a few seminars organized during Vinitaly. However, we soon realized that there was a need for a dedicated event, during which participants could fully focus on the content: this is how wine2wine Business Forum debuted in 2014. In the nine years of experience as a stand-alone event, wine2wine has carried on that initial mission not only by offering in-depth insights on key wine business topics, but also by choosing for the sessions a practical and rigorous perspective that we think is functional for targeted and effective training, ready to take to the field.
After six editions as a face-to-face event, in 2020 the format of the wine2wine Business Forum had to change. To comply with the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 emergency, which made normal ways of doing business impracticable, the Forum reinvented itself as a completely online event. The 2021 edition – the eighth – combined the previous experiences of face-to-face events with an online interface, bringing together the best of both worlds in an hybrid format. So, we come to this ninth edition whose format will be in-person attendance only.
You don’t just do an event you also host other seminars – and a podcast – can you explain what other activities you do?
The wine2wine Business Forum is more than a two-day conference. Along with the sessions, the programme features networking opportunities, seminars, and interactive workshops for producers, press and wine professionals.
In particular, this year the Forum is planning a one-of-a-kind session-laboratory held by Dr Hoby Wedler, PhD in chemistry and well-known wine educator. Blind from birth, Wedler has become a sensory expert with a highly trained palate. His session will take the form of an experience in which guests will be blindfolded and invited to build an olfactory vocabulary based on a series of samples specially prepared by Dr Wedler and his team. Just as a dictionary provides terms and definitions for written and spoken language, the olfactory vocabulary is essential for expressing in words and sharing what is sensually experienced.
The audience will then proceed with a “blind” wine tasting, i.e. blindfolded. “We use all five of our senses to receive 100% of the information, but sight is responsible for 85-90% of this information”, explains Wedler. “It therefore means that we have four other senses, perfectly valid, underused to obtain 10-15% of information”.
This significantly affects our sensory literacy. By temporarily eliminating the dominant sense of sight in the participants, the session will lead them to focus attention on details of aroma and flavor that would otherwise be overlooked, and to recognize new textures and flavors in each wine. The purpose of this experience is to show how important it is to give more space to senses other than sight when experiencing wine. Receiving data in this way produces a renewed depth of involvement that can directly impact key decisions and develop a better understanding of wine.
The Forum will also host a Book Corner and a Podcast Corner throughout the whole event. Authors relevant to the wine industry will present their latest books. Podcast hosts Steve Raye, Polly Hammond, Chris Scott, and Cynthia Chaplin will lead a podcast marathon sponsored by WineAround; while other podcasters will talk about this powerful means of communication in a series of twenty-minute sessions.
Anything else to say?