January 29, 2009
Unified Wine & Grape Symposium: talking trends

"The only constant these days is change," said Jim Trezise from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, as he opened one of today's sessions at Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. The topic of the morning was "changing trends in changing times" in the wine industry, and was perhaps the best general session of this wine symposium thus far. Attendance at the Hyatt Regency's ballroom, however, was on the lighter side and due perhaps to all the Unified wining and dining going on last night.

The emphasis on this panel was, like with other discussions over the week, centered around the economy and growing consumption of value wines. The United States is poised to become the largest consumer of wine by 2012, and a key to this rise is the "millennial" generation of ages 32 and under. Research shows that the portion of this demographic that is of legal drinking age is especially interested in drinking wine and more active among other age groups in visiting wine bars and joining wine clubs. But it's value that everyone is looking for, and this new surge in wine interest will be driven by affordable table wines versus high-end trophy bottles.

"The $10 bottle is the new $20 bottle, and the $20 bottle is the new $100 bottle," said John Gillespie of Wine Colleagues, a St. Helena-based advocate for wine businesses.

Rising interest in "foodie" culture, including such movies as "Ratatouille" and the Food Newtork, also bodes well for wine culture, said San Francisco wine consultant Courtney Cochran. But notions of elitism and snobbery in the wine world may be stunting some of this growth. The overall message: opportunities exist for the expansion of wine as a part of everyday American life, even in these tough economic times.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Convention Center's exhibition halls are still buzzing with the trade show. And the crush got especially mighty Wednesday evening as wine tasting featuring various regions around the country got underway. But now, it's time to log off this laptop and head to a seminar on business issues in the wine industry. Salud!

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