So it was that timely recently, at the end of August, 520 people from across our industry took a moment out for professional development and networking at this year’s Bragato conference.
The sessions and workshops really sought to challenge, with a healthy level of debate and loads of relevant insights: Exactly how do choices in the vineyard influence ripening dates? What’s the most effective way to increase your profit? How diverse and equitable is our industry, and what is each member’s responsibility to improve that? Are we in the right markets and where are they trending? Are we missing market share by using more sustainable lighter glass and screwcaps? How do successful producers of lighter wines achieve their full flavours? Precisely how are our borders being protected from incoming pests?
Feedback we’ve received to date is that members found the conference relevant and stimulating. Once again this year, the quality of the interaction was improved by the Sli.do app, which allowed the audience to directly pose questions (both serious and less so!) from their phones. The presenters and panellists don’t always have the answers, but the buzz around the halls, and continuing after the conference finished, shows that the industry understands the need to question and challenge accepted wisdom, and tackle potentially difficult issues.
Substantial new funding for Pinot Noir research
A whole lot more complex questions are about to be asked – and hopefully answered – about Pinot Noir. In mid-September New Zealand Winegrowers was awarded a $9.3 million Endeavour Fund grant from MBIE to launch a multi-year investigation into Pinot Noir. In addition, $1 million of members’ levy funds will be invested into the programme. Together with the $10.5 million of government funding secured for the New Zealand Winegrowers Research Centre, this represents a substantial and welcome investment in the future of the New Zealand wine sector.
The five-year research programme will delve into the sustainable and profitable production of Pinot Noir, by taking a scientific approach to questions such as:what makes a quality Pinot Noir?
how can New Zealand continue to make the world’s best Pinot Noir at increased production levels?
what influences the factors in the “quality/production” seesaw of Pinot Noir, and how can we take control of those factors?
The programme will look at consumer perceptions, biochemistry, vineyard interventions, and winemaking techniques with the goal of simultaneously increasing quality and productivity of New Zealand Pinot Noir.
The programme aims to support the diversification of the New Zealand wine sector by growing Pinot Noir as a proportion of our production and exports.
Women in Wine
Speaking of buzz at Bragato, the ASB Theatre was well abuzz the evening before Bragato with the inaugural launch of Women in Wine NZ. A sell-out crowd of 165 women and men from across the industry met for drinks and networking, before sitting down to be inspired and entertained with the personal stories, insights, and winding career paths of three notable “women in wine” – Sandra Taylor (CEO, corporate sustainability expert and writer, from USA), Jeni Port (wine writer and journalist, from Australia), and Nadia Lim (MasterChef winner 2011 and co-founder of My Food Bag).
The Women in Wine NZ initiative aims to help provide women in our sector with tools, services and opportunities to advance their careers and personal development. In the short term, its goals include facilitating a national mentoring programme, facilitating local educational activities, and gathering meaningful data on the amount of women employed in the New Zealand wine industry, and in what positions.
Attending the inaugural event, I was particularly struck by two things: a clear and enthusiastic energy from the attendees, confirming that this is an idea whose time has come and is filling a need; and a real sense of gratitude that it is consciously focussed on supporting women at all levels within the industry, not just today’s leaders.
I have no doubt that Women in Wine NZ will become a powerful and positive force for diversity growth in our sector, and I encourage everyone to support it.