The last two weeks has seen a remarkable flurry of vinous cerebral activity – at the Wine Future 2023 conference in Coimbra, Portugal and Wine2Wine in Verona which took place almost back to back.
While focusing on the wine industry, the two events were marked by a number of differences. Wine Future involved a single theatre and a number of panels, punctuated by a number of keynote presentations by presenters ranging from Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and medical doctor and Argentine winery CEO Laura Catena to Nobel economist Sir Christopher Pissarides. Wine2Wine, by contrast, consisted of a series of individual presentations, of which three were happening at any moment of the day.
Wine Future sought to be international, but with the inevitable Portuguese note that came from its location and the involvement of Wines of Portugal; Wine2Wine was unashamedly Italian-focused. Both, however, had the same chastening message to offer: the wine industry is facing tough and uncertain times.
The wine industry is facing tough and uncertain times.
Laura Catena, who was at both events, addressed the challenges presented by the World Health Organisation which seems to be taking a very partisan approach to alcohol, focusing on cancer risks while disregarding potential cardiac benefits.
Setting aside the issue of health, there is the only partially separate issue of falling wine consumption. The man who talked about this in Coimbra was Rob McMillan, author of the annual SVB Bank Report. McMillan has, he said, tried to mount an industry effort to combat what he termed neo-Prohibitionism, but failed to get sufficient US industry support.
In Verona, the task of describing the state of the US market fell to his countryman and former Nielsen analyst Danny Brager who now works with the Wine Market Council in California. Both experts showed statistics revealing that wine drinkers — especially the young — are turning to a growing range of alternatives to wine, including, as Brager revealed, cannabis.
The proposed solution to disaffection with wine, which ran as a theme through Wine Future in particular, lay in more effective emotional engagement with actual and potential wine consumers. Among the ways of achieving this objective were direct-selling, the effective use of influencers and the adoption of AI.
Over the next few editions of Meininger’s International, we will be looking at these issues and at the way experts covered them at both Wine Future and Wine2Wine.