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by Cyril Penn | August 28, 2013 | 4:14 PM

Here’s a conference for the international wine industry that looks like it’s going to be interesting: It caught my eye because of the high-profile speakers. The inaugural WineVision conference will be held this November in London. It’s billed as a “brand new CEO-level summit” for inspiring innovative and entrepreneurial ways to drive more profitability in the wine business. There are 75 speakers over three days: (Presenters from the U.S. include Rick Tigner of Jackson Family Wines, David Pearson from Opus One, Robert Nicholson of International Wine Associates, and Ted Baseler of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.)

WineVision is being produced by William Reed Business Media, parent company of Harpers, the UK-based trade publication covering wine and spirits. Conference director Mark Jones says rather than looking inwards toward what’s in the bottle, Wine Vision will focus the emerging markets and how to make money. He says it will focus on new ideas from outside of the industry too.

The ambition of this summit is to re-direct the wine industry by addressing its challenges and preparing for the future. Areas to be discussed: emerging markets, branding and marketing, digital communication, health and sustainability, finance, global distribution and supply/demand.

The idea to create Wine Vision came about partly as a result of the Wine Future conference held in Hong Kong a couple years ago.

Wine Vision also caught my eye because of the name.

Back in 1996, when Australia's government was considering an excise tax hike and Australian wine didn’t have much international presence, The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia published a strategic plan titled ‘Vision 2025’ written by economist Paul van der Lee. The plan emphasized a united effort to promote exports, but also research and innovation.  The Australian government got behind the Wine Vision plan too: Long story short – the Australian industry boomed – investment dollars flowed - the plan way exceeded expectations and goals – well ahead of 2025. Maybe they grew too quickly but that’s another matter. (Our 2002 interview with van der Lee is here).

Meanwhile in California, bulk wine broker Bill Turrentine made note of Australia’s sudden success with "Wine Vision 2025" in his company newsletter, proposing a similar initiative for the U.S. wine business. WineVision efforts soon began, led largely by David Freed, Paul Dolan, Jerry Lohr with Turrentine, California Wine Grape Growers president Karen Ross (now California’s Agriculture Commissioner) and others.

Wine Vision: American Wine in the 21st Century was an industry-wide strategic effort with the vision to make American wines the pre-eminent supplier to the global market; make wine a more integral part of American Culture; and to focus on sustainability. There was a consulting firm involved, task forces, meetings, an annual conference, and involvement from associations. WineVision eventually wound down and its leaders took on new projects. Among other things, WineVision’s focus on sustainability led to Wine Institute and CAWG cooperating on their comprehensive sustainability projects, and to the National Grape & Wine Initiative.

Wine is certainly more of a part of American culture than it was back then too.

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