The wine2wine Business Forum has come a long way in the 10 years it has been providing in-depth market analysis from some of the world’s leading wine and business experts. As it looks to celebrate its 10th anniversary at its event in Verona in November we talk to the event organiser Stevie Kim who has done so much to make it a unique business event that looks to help the overall wine industry, and Italian wine market specifically, better understand the challenges it faces and opportunities it still has the potential to take.
The 2023 wine2wine Business Forum takes place in Verona Italy between November 13-14. Click here to find out more and register.
For those that don’t know wine2wine Business Forum can you explain what it is and what you think makes it different?
wine2wine Business Forum, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, is a two-day international wine business conference. The Forum is organised by Vinitaly and Veronafiere in collaboration with ITA – the Italian Trade Agency.
It was in 2014 that the Forum debuted as a stand-alone event. Before that, a few seminars were held during Vinitaly, but it soon became clear the international wine community needed a dedicated event, during which the participants could fully focus on the content. Since then, wine2wine Business Forum has maintained its original goal of offering wine industry professionals the most up-to-date training and development opportunities available.
A core component of the wine2wine Business Forum is the lineup of international speakers, who are among the brightest minds in the wine world. Not only does the Forum offer in-depth analysis of key wine-business topics, but it takes a practical and targeted approach, with data, insights and ideas that attendees can deploy directly in the field. Besides, the Forum provides a unique opportunity for the wine community to connect, to build relationships through both informal engagement and structured networking spaces.
Congratulations on your 10 years. What are the key themes for the 2023 event and why have you chosen them?
This year, wine2wine Business Forum will celebrate its commitment to sharing business ideas by providing a platform for the talent, experience and expertise of our Italian wine ambassadors, certified wine professionals responsible for promoting Italian wine across the globe. Harnessing the global reach of this community of ambassadors, the Forum will provide producers and wine professionals in the audience with the knowledge, skills and contacts they need to promote wine in an international context and to expand their global reach.
Each of these ambassadors has their own story and personal journey, as well as their field of expertise. The key is to bring their living voice and their reports of concrete experiences directly in front of producers and wine professionals: seeing that doing more and better is possible can be inspiring and stimulating.
This year’s key topics are many, and I recommend everyone keep an eye on the program section of the event website to get the full picture and real-time updates.
How did we choose what themes to cover? What we did was to identify some of the problems of the wine industry and provide possible solutions. Here are some examples.
How can wineries sell some extra bottles, perhaps even skipping the complications of the different steps between the producer and the consumer?
The D2C business model is a possible answer. Some sessions will identify the different sectors of D2C and present the main advantages of the D2C channel, also providing practical insights and strategies for implementing a successful D2C wine business.
Does it make sense for a winemaker to invest in capturing the attention of the wine buyers of tomorrow? If so, how can they do that?
Some speakers will explore, for example, the potential of Gen Z’s wine preferences and explore what strategies could be effective for capturing them.
What are the core and most promising wine markets today?
We will also have the popular “Market Focus” a track with sessions sponsored by ITA – Trade Agency – that will offer analyses of various countries and trends around the world. Other sessions will also discuss markets, e.g., Central Asian, Swedish and US markets and potential for Italian wine.
How different are they from the topics and themes you covered in your first event in 2014?
wine2wine Business Forum has always been focused on delivering sessions tailored to the current needs of wine producers and professionals. Every edition – not just from 10 years ago – has its own characteristic theme dedicated to that particular year. This year is celebrating the Italian wine ambassadors in a very inclusive way, meaning not just Italian wine ambassadors certified by the Vinitaly International Academy.
In 2014, the wine2wine Business Forum was a much larger event, also because it was a free event for Italian wine producers and wine professionals. It was huge, there were more than 1,200 attendees: every room was overflowing and people were sitting on floors. It has scaled a bit since then. Also, the theme was more generic. But it was also unmanageable and inefficient, so we had to streamline it and dedicate it to a more niche audience.
As we progressed, we specialised in vertical topics related to the business of Italian wine. The other thing is that the format has changed: in the beginning it was often panels of three or four speakers each, but we found we didn’t have enough time to take a deep dive. Now, most of the sessions include just one speaker and they do a deep dive focusing on specific learning objectives and takeaways. To add value, the sessions are very specific and tool-oriented.
Any key headline speakers and topics you want to highlight?
One of our headline speakers is Dr Laura Catena, managing director of Catena Zapata winery in Argentina.Her unique life story as a fourth-generation Italian immigrant in Argentina, her extraordinary educational journey, her family’s legacy in the wine industry and their unique marketing approach sets the stage for a compelling narrative.
The Catena Zapata winery has also this year been named the “#1 World’s Best vineyard” and Laura’s speech will examine how the family winery achieved this award.
Another influential name in this year’s line-up is Peter Mondavi Jr., co-proprietor with his brother Marc of the historic Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley. His company has also begun to deal with importing foreign wines (including Italian ones), so Mondavi Jr. will explore different aspects of the relationship between importer and exporter – especially family-owned businesses.
Jeremy Hart, chief strategic marketing and co-founder at somm.ai – the data partner of wine2wine Business Forum 2023 – will present the list of the top 150 Italian wines in the US restaurants. Using data collated from restaurant menus, the sales and data analytics tool provides users with a snapshot of what US restaurant-goers are drinking, enabling producers to understand tastes, preferences and price points, with the overall objective of improving on-premise sales.
Speaking of the US market, Danny Brager will present and comment on a special report by the Wine Market Council, a leader in market research on US wine consumer buying habits, attitudes and trends. Former head of the Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area in the U.S, Danny Brager is the founder of the Brager Beverage Alcohol Consulting, California, as well as special advisor to the Wine Market Council and managing director of category & consumer insights at Azur Associates.
One session will be conducted by consultant and wine producer, Barbara Fitzgerald IWA, a seasoned expert in direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing, who has amassed extensive experience in both California and Italy. Fitzgerald will present a comprehensive analysis of D2C marketing techniques and delve into the potential benefits of adopting and leveraging this model within Italian wineries.
Nathalie Spielmann DipWSET – IWA, professor of marketing and director of the MSc Wine & Gastronomy at NEOMA Business School in Reims, will draw upon her doctoral research to explore the role of territorial and terroir branding. The session will delve into the identification of key facets that render terroir brands unique, highlighting how such knowledge can help regions and wine brands gain traction and rise above the competitive playing field.
Who do you think is best placed to benefit from the content at wine2wine Business Forum?
I believe wine2wine Business Forum provides relevant content and networking opportunities for everyone in the wine industry. Over the years, the event has established its reputation for offering a comprehensive program of events and workshops for both wine producers and all wine professionals. Whether you’re a buyer, importer, marketing specialist, communicator, oenologist, sommelier, 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.
Are you also hosting wine tastings and masterclasses and other wine themed aspects to wine2wine Business Forum?
To mark its 10th edition the program includes five unique tasting sessions focused on demystifying the dizzying world of wine scores. Producers often think that the wine scoring system is based on the quality of the wine, on what is in the bottle. We want to go behind the scenes and bring to the audience – not just the producers but all wine professionals, including those who work in communication – a full understanding of the evaluation process and its subjectivity.
The new tasting sessions track will kick off with Stephanie Johnson DipWSET, Italian wine editor from Wine & Spirits Magazine together with sommeliers Katharine Hooper and Celia Erickson, revealing the scoring process they use and giving insight into Wine & Spirits’ requirements and considerations for wines that receive their top scores.
The second tasting session will look at the role tasting plays in the journey to becoming a Master of Wine. Italy’s two Masters of Wine, Gabriele Gorelli MW and Andrea Lonardi MW, will share the strength of their study system, and will taste and evaluate wines to MW standard in person and live.
Tasting session three will be led by Jeff Porter IWA and Danielle Callegari, with a focus on the Wine Enthusiast philosophy of evaluating wines from many unusual angles.
Tasting session four takes the audience to the heart of Bordeaux, with Decanter’s premium editor and Bordeaux correspondent, Georgie Hindle DipWSET leading a tasting of three wines that give an overview of Bordeaux’s Right Bank for those who want to know more about this famous region but don’t know where to start.
The final tasting session will be with America’s VinePair. Co-Founder Josh Malin and tasting director Keith Beavers, along with managing editor Tim McKirdy and assistant editor Hannah Staab, will explain how they approach tastings and reviews from a new perspective.
What do you see are the biggest issues facing the wine industry in 2023 vs most recent years?
In 2023, the wine industry continues to be influenced by the changes brought about by the rise of online wine sales, a trend that was significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Wineries have recognised the importance of adapting their selling strategies to cater to the evolving preferences and behaviours of their customers and are now looking for ways to efficiently improve their selling strategies.
For example, online sales have allowed wineries to bypass traditional distribution channels and sell directly to consumers. D2C not only provides higher profit margins but also gives wineries greater control over branding, messaging, and customer interactions. However, not all wineries are familiar with the D2C business model and its potential growth and success. Wine tourism is also relevant to this discussion. Most wineries have realized that wine tourism can be a significant revenue stream for many regions, but some of them are still dealing with issues related to attracting tourists, offering unique experiences, and ensuring an enjoyable environment for visitors.
Of course, the wine industry has been dealing with the effects of climate change for several years, including shifts in temperature and weather patterns that impacted grape growth and wine production. Today, concerns about sustainable practices, water availability, and the carbon footprint of wine production have become even more pronounced.
Consumer preferences too have been evolving, with an increased interest in organic, biodynamic, and sustainably produced wines. Wineries may want to adapt their production methods and marketing strategies to align with these preferences. This last theme is also related to the consumer interest in health-conscious choices that impact the wine industry: the demand for organic but also low-alcohol wine options has gained more prominence in response to these trends. Besides, the heated and prolonged debate on the effects of alcohol consumption on human health has become extremely relevant, with major implications not only in health policy but also economics.
What do you see as the areas of biggest potential that wine businesses should be focusing on?
I am a slightly biased, but I think it has to be communication, how to broach communication in general. That is a issues that everyone – from big groups to small wineries, even personal brands – should be focusing on and investing resources in. Social media is everywhere, but one thing that must be underlined is that not everyone should be involved in social media: you need dedicated specialists and experts to focus on specific activities.
How are you changing as a business to address these issues and offer new solutions and ideas to the industry?
The wine2wine Business Forum is constantly adapting its features to the current needs and trends of the wine industry. Every year we look for the most up-to-date insights, recruit the best new speakers and build partnerships with relevant wine associations, companies in the sector and media outlets. The key here is the role of wine2wine Business Forum as a facilitator of conversation between participants – who are wine professionals and wine industry people – and experts who can provide wine business insights. Our motto “sharing business ideas” is exactly that. Often the inspiration comes directly from the participants themselves: they let us know what kind of sessions they would like to have, we listen and then try to bring them the information and the tools that they need.
- To find out more about wine2wine in Verona, Italy on November 13 and 14 go to its website here.