After a brainstorming session that had summit participants asking, “What might be considered true innovation, simply an evolution, or a regression in ideas?” we came up with four topics: Media, Health, Education and Tourism, and Packaging. These topics were mutually agreed upon.
We then asked participants to imagine landing on a new planet where it would be their job to rebuild (or create) the local wine industry. What infrastructure would they change, or even ignore, if there wasn’t historical baggage to contend? This thought experiment meant looking through a “What if?” lens, with the goal being to ask the right questions. We are publishing the results here in the hope of sparking an industry-wide debate that moves beyond some of the same tropes we find ourselves stuck within.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the wine industry, according to media reports, and which is multi-faceted. It can range from wineries expanding their “agrotourism” and hospitality facilities in order to provide new sources of revenue and interest, to cases where a winery is added to existing tourism and receptive infrastructure in order to enhance the appeal of the destination or facility. Both can be considered wine tourism, yet their approach is very different. In traditional wine regions with dense concentrations of wineries, such as Napa, droves of wine-tourists are now creating pressure on infrastructure. How can we ensure that the local environment be protected from their impact?
For our second topic, education, we discussed the role of certification and debated whether wine needs to have industry figures who can demonstrate superior knowledge. Without them, in our new world, would the wine drinker would be lost? (Especially if wine had been relegated to the categories of harmful substances and/or were white-labelled, as has been proposed). Who would guide us? Will we be able to rely on AI in the future to point us in the right direction? Will wine retailers or HoReCa offer an assistant to guide us through our choices based on our tastes? Could this be global?
- What if we could “Disneyfi”wine tourism locations to relieve pressure on local infrastructure?
Napa, arguably the most successful region for oenotourism, has capitalized on its success but is also facing new challenges as a result. The region receives between approximately 3.85 M () and $2.23 billion in total visitor spending inside Napa County. But Napa suffers from intense traffic, with 27K trips on Highway 29 to St Helena and almost double that on the South Highway entering Napa. The horrible traffic jams plague holiday weekends (and more) and the environmental impact is terrible, not to mention the consumer dissatisfaction. This is without recognizing the carbon footprint that is generated by travelling on airplanes to get to Napa. Moreover, the economic contributions to the city itself and its residents seem lacking.
At the BDWA Summit, the team looked outward to the ultimate leader in customer experiences, Disneyland. While some frowned upon the phrase and felt it devalued Wine Country, others noted the way that Disney is organised to ensure a great experience, from the moment of first contact, through travel, and the park itself. Ideas included adding parking lots to the city of American Canyon, so tourists and workers could then take a bus service or an electric train to key points in Napa. This type of transport solution is common with Disney, to help facilitate traffic flow. The streets of Disney are also always clean and beautifully landscaped, unlike many parts of Napa. Perhaps Napa needs a beautification fund to clean the highways and improve dilapidated areas of town. Training programs are also part of Disney, which aim to provide the best possible service. Some in the discussion group recommended a myriad of educational programs to better improve the career mobility of the hospitality and vineyard worker staff. Schooling and educational funds were constant themes. While Napa has an Auction, the team felt the contributions shouldn’t exclusively come from a small group of bidders, but from the collective community to elevate the communities (both Napa and neighboring cities) that power the tourism. Many agreed on better programs for improving the lives of the working community that powers the valley. And finally, many felt it would be a worthwhile effort to pay a carbon offset price for the high environmental cost of tourism to lead the world in oenotourism and be the gold standard for all (https://www.thewaltdisneycompany.com/environment/). The Disneyfying initially sounded kitsch but in the end, the goals and standards by which they set a baseline became a model for success. While Disney is by no means perfect, they’ve at least established a foundation by which Napa and all oenotourism can build upon.
- What if there were a FREE on-line wine certification program so that all servers in restaurants could be easily trained?
Wine is mysterious, its very popularity and prestige is based on the fact that it needs to be deciphered. Perhaps in this new world it wouldn’t be, perhaps there would be only a handful of grape varieties, no notion of terroir or wine-making craft, but if it were to look anything like the one we have today, then our consumers would need guidance. How marvelous it would be if, in every wine outlet and retail point that existed, there were someone who knew at least the fundamentals of the wines they stocked and served. Rather than having financial barriers for this, what it is were something that anyone, anywhere could access — in any language — and for free? Would this allow our wine consumers to more secure when navigating the intrepid depths of the wine list? Wouldn’t this surely ensure more sales?
- What if we had a world database of all products with AI assistants to recommend wines thus creating personal wine guides?
We are experiencing a profound digital transformation. Perhaps we are living the most transformational moment in the history of humanity. Science fiction is becoming science fact. Internet of things, artificial intelligence, intelligent assistance, automation, digitalization, mobilization, robotics, quantum computing, big data, augmentation, disintermediation, the list is long. And all this combines, amplifies, is interconnected, potentiated, everything has high performance, in the limit of perfection, everything is exponential.
Today the abundance of data is infinite and its availability is universal. The challenge is to manage this abundance, to organize it and, above all, to humanize it. The technology already exists for creating a Big Data of Wine. It could encompass all the world’s wineries and wines (with data input by the companies themselves), powered by artificial intelligence, and with an intelligent assistance interface with which the consumer could talk, by voice. This wine lover could build a relationship with the tool, feeding without perceiving a personal database with their preferences and experiences, making this service more and more efficient.
As technology gains space in our lives, anything that can not be digitized or automated is increasingly valued, such as emotions, imagination, ethics, intuition, and empathy. More and more we stop buying things to buy experiences. Wine, because of its rich history, its connection with nature and locality, and its sensory appeal, has an immense power to provide experiences and be a transforming agent in people’s lives. It is essential, however, that the wine industry embrace technology, as it can play an important role in bringing the consumer closer to our favorite beverage. Such a tool would be real innovation.
This content is a result of the #BDWASummit which took place on May 30th to June 1st, 2019 in Liege, Belgium. The event’s purpose was to unite winners and judges from the annual BDWAs to discuss the future of the wine industry through the lens of “Truthfulness”.
Participants Included: Damien Wilson (Judge), Elizabeth Smith (Judge, Winner Tourism Content 2017), Felicity Carter (Judge), Helena Nicklin(Judge, Winner Best Video 2017), Jonathan Lipsmeyer (Judge, Winner Best Investigative Writing 2017), Paul Mabray (Judge), Al Robertson (2nd Place, Best Visual Storytelling 2018), Alice Feiring (Winner Best Food & Wine Content 2018), Ilkka Siren (Winner Best Tourism Content 2018), Marcelo Copello (Winner Sustainability Award 2018), Meg Maker (Winner Best Editorial 2018), Rebecca Hopkins (Runner-up Vinventions’ Innovation Award), Faye Cardwell (BDWA), Ryan Opaz (Founder, BDWA, DWCC and Catavino), Reka Haros (Project leader on behalf of Vinventions), Mel Cressman (Vinventions), Caroline Thomas and Vanessa Sferrazza(Vinventions)