Feb 28: The 4-day/evening virtual wine conference organised by Chrand Events between 23-26 February through Zoom, was an interesting experiment where around 80 wine professionals, academics and journalists from across the globe presented and discussed their views about various relevant topics, writes Subhash Arora who was one of the Speakers presenting Indian wine market and how it had reacted to the Covid pandemic
Held daily on February 23-26, 2021 between 4-8 pm CET, it was the equivalent of a day-night T20 cricket match-perfect to catch all the proceedings of the Conference. It was a treat for the serious Indian wine connoisseurs thirsting for wine knowledge and happenings around the globe and listen to the views of several top professionals, journalists and academics, as the time translated to 8:30 pm- 12-30 am IST was ideal; one could finish the day’s work and relax with a glass of wine or more, past the dinner time and then have a meditation wine for the later sessions.
Wine Future 2021 had been initially planned for 3 days, but thanks to the flexibility afforded by the Virtual format and the increasing number of topics to be covered, the organisers decided to extend it by a day and even then the time had to be somewhat extended every day because of the keynote addresses and the promotional videos and other entertainment programs.
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Thanks to the strict monitoring by the co-host David Furer who conducted the proceedings, each panel was within the schedule unlike in the previous edition in 2011 in Hong Kong where it had been difficult to rein in the Speakers with vast knowledge and too little time to share with the audience.
Each day had a Key-note address followed by 45-minute sessions and promotional videos, many of which highlighted wine regions like Porto and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Hills (Prosecco docg) and celebrities like Ernie Els. The Speakers were well-coordinated by the moderators of standing in the wine world.
Pancho Campo, President of Chrand Events said, ‘the previous edition in Hong Kong was easy to sell. There was only one person who commanded global respect and when Robert Parker consented to attend, everything fell in place and we had no difficulty in selling out the event. However, he has ‘retired’ now and there has been no single person to fill the void. We found it difficult to repeat that format and decided to go with many celebrity Speakers. I requested our co-host David (Furer) to organise Speakers who have distinguished themselves in various sectors and he managed 70-80 of them.’
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Topics were very relevant to today’s time and discussions and presentations centred around Covid and focused on ‘what after Covid’. There were current topics like Effects of Covid, Digital Marketing Strategies, gender and colour discrimination in the industry, the impact on off-trade and on-trade business, shift in trends for wine consumption, the economic impact of 2020-21, Data Research and its impact on business, wine tourism last year and what changes it might bring in post-Covid era. Transportation of bulk wines, the Climate Change crisis in the wine industry and what the stakeholders were doing to face it were but a few of the interesting and relevant topics.
Each session was well handled well. There was something for everyone. Perhaps the organisers should include a discussion and debate about ‘wine and health’ with so many theories (some of them rubbish) being promulgated. The best and most relevant part was the Climax- Discussion on ‘The Future’ with several panellists from all corners of the world sharing their views.
Also Read : WineFuture 2021: A Virtual Zoom Conference on 23-25 February 2021
The essence of the knowledge one could gain from the Conference was shared by one of the Speakers, David Pearson, President of The Meadowood Estate co-owned by Bill Harlan in Napa, which bore the brunt of the forest fires last fall. He said,’ when I came out of college and after all the wine education 30 years ago, I felt I knew everything there was to know about wine and answer any questions. After 30 years, attending this Conference, I realize how limited my wine knowledge has been and I have to go a long way and learn more.’ (In a sharp contrast to our home-grown wine ‘experts’ in India who with superfluous knowledge of a few months to a few years, claim to be know-it- all).
One important Take-away from the Conference was that most of the wine world was badly affected as hotels, restaurants and HORECA were shut down globally for different periods but a focus on eCommerce and online sales was the saviour. Chile avoided the anticipated huge drop in the beginning of the pandemic and the sales decrease merely 0.4% (4% in value) thanks to the concerted efforts of the country in embracing eCommerce and Online sales. (Unfortunately, the Government of India did not pay any attention except closing down the sales of wine and spirits and only a few states allowing home delivery later. With the Delhi government cancelling all licenses to sell wine and beer, and enforcing a Corona cess of 75% of MRP resulted in an avoidable loss in sales and wine availability-editor).
Also Read : Zoom into Wine Future with Pancho Campo on 23-26 February 2021
While South Africa seems to have suffered the most with export banned on 3 occasions, every country faced the challenge in different proportions with a concurrence by the panellists that social media had been a big booster in sales and helped many small producers keep afloat. As Jean-Charles-Boisset (who jointly owns the J’NOON label with Fratelli Wines in Akluj and imports the label into California, commanding premium) mentioned, they had initiated an online initiative called JCB Live through which they have had 7 million interactions.
The panellists agreed that the industry had seen the worst but it might take some time for the situation to normalise and that the new normal may not be the same as the old normal and the industry would need to face the challenges, in addition to the Climate Change Crisis that is already hitting the globe, impacting wine drinking patterns and trends and the changing habits of GenNext and Millennials. There was a consensus that a Conference like Wine Future had much relevance in the wine world and Pancho Campo and his entire team needed to be commended for the efforts to create an event with no parallels.
Campo announced that the next edition of Wine Future would be held in March 2022, hopefully in the physical format but possibly in a hybrid format, depending on the global situation-but not clashing with Prowein 2022 on March 27-29.
Also Read : Winefuture Hong Kong Impresses in Parts
For topics discussed in various Sessions, Click HERE. The organisers plan to put up the videos of ALL the presentations on their website by Tuesday, March 2 with a rider not to share or post them on social media as they are copyrighted.
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