Friday, 07 June 2024 15:25

Altogether Unique: Navigating a bright future for New Zealand wine

Written by  Sophie Preece
Altogether Unique Celebration Dinner 2023. Photo Richard Briggs Altogether Unique Celebration Dinner 2023. Photo Richard Briggs

Altogether Unique 2024 is a chance to connect with colleagues, celebrate fresh successes, showcase industry stalwarts, and dig into the business, research and innovation of New Zealand’s wine industry.

“The aim is to build on the aspects that were so successful in the inaugural event last year,” New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) Chief Executive Philip Gregan says of the packed two-day programme.

New Zealand Wine, Altogether Unique, running at Te Papa in Wellington on 29 and 30 August, begins with the one-day Wine Business Forum – Navigating the Beverage Superhighway. The programme of high calibre speakers will be announced in the coming months, but it includes leadership, advertising and marketing guru Kevin Roberts (CNZM), wine writer and Business of Drinks co-founder Felicity Carter, and Andrew Shedden, Head of Fine Wine from Endeavour Drinks Group, all of whom are travelling to New Zealand for the event. NZW General Manager Brand Charlotte Read says the forum topics include innovation, artificial intelligence, the value of sustainability in wine business, future visions of wine tourism, and marketing strategy, with speakers sharing deep expertise on the opportunities and challenges the industry faces in order to retain its competitive edge.

The forum will be following by a Celebration Dinner, where the 2024 NZW Fellows will be acknowledged, and the winners of the Young Viticulturist and Young Winemaker of the Year national finals announced and presented with their trophies. That’s an evolution of the 2023 event, where Young Winemaker finalists delivered their speeches, and Alena Kamper was named Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year. It’s about throwing a spotlight on the success of the regional finalists and winning competitors in each event, Philip says, noting that while there’ll be plenty of amazing New Zealand wine at the dinner, this is a celebration of the people of the industry, from pioneering stalwarts to up-and-coming talent. The 2024 Celebration Dinner also introduces a new Qualmark New Zealand Wine Tourism Award, recognising excellence in the visitor experience, from the cellar door to the quality of the hosting, with an emphasis on sustainable tourism experiences.

Altogether Unique 2023 included a Women in Wine event at Kate Sheppard House, and that successful gathering will be refreshed with a Women in Wine breakfast in Wellington on 30 August, followed by a new item on the programme, the Research and Innovation Forum being devised by Bragato Research Institute.

Last year’s Wine Business Forum in Ōtautahi sold out quickly, reflecting the industry’s appetite for relevant market and consumer insights to help drive their businesses forward, “with the added benefit of being able to learn and share ideas together”, Charlotte says. “Networking in our relationship-driven industry is so vital.” Selecting a relevant theme each year takes a lot of thought, including input from the NZW Brand Committee, she adds. “It’s a team effort. This year’s future-focused theme has allowed us to involve a really inspiring group of speakers.”

Last year’s forum, focused on the Importance of Brand, included Oz Clarke urging the industry to refrain from emulating others. “New Zealand’s wines tasted of a somewhere that had never existed before. And that’s the story that you tell,” he said in a poetic homage to New Zealand wine and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand Story Group Chief Executive David Downs explained that the brand value of New Zealand as a country of origin is “massive” and discussed the value of “New Zealand-ness” and the power of a common brand platform for New Zealand industries. “The wine industry needs to support the meat industry, needs to support the technology industry, needs to support the education sector,” he said. “The messages need to be consistent among all of us.” Other speakers included wine strategist Lulie Halstead revealing insightful market research; Rob McMillan, founder of the Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division, defining price point and potential vulnerability; Mike O’Sullivan, founder and Executive Creative Director of Many Minds, delving into brand – including the development of New Zealand Wine, Altogether Unique; and Giesen Group General Manager Kyle Skene, who discussed diversification into low and no alcohol wine.

Philip says there’s no doubt that this year’s lineup will continue the momentum of that extraordinary offering, with global leaders, from here and abroad, tackling subjects of immediate and future pertinence to the industry. Altogether Unique is a celebration of the people of the wine industry, and a view of what’s on the horizon, in terms of science and technology, as well as marketing, sustainability, tourism and sales, Philip says. “It is about lifting people out of the here and now and getting them to think about the longer-term picture.”

Attendees can book for any or all of the four Altogether Unique events.

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