Creating an Inclusive, Diverse, Ethical, and Democratic Wine Industry: wine2wine’s 2019 Special Theme to Focus on ‘Social Sustainability’
The event is a key reference point for wine producers and a diverse variety of wine professionals eager to develop and grow their wine businesses worldwide. This year wine2wine’s theme is ‘social sustainability’.
Yannick Benjamin, wine2wine’s keynote speaker. Co-founder of Wine on Wheels & Wheeling Forward. Proprietor of Contento Restaurant NYC and Head Sommelier The University Club
One challenge is that ‘sustainability’, in the context of the wine sector, has become synonymous with its ecological aspects alone. The direct economic resonance of climate change to the wine industry has in part contributed to an urgent focus on ecological sustainability. Organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines have gained global traction among producers and consumers alike, and frequently dominate discussions around ‘sustainability’ at wine industry forums. While the energy gathering around ecological sustainability is a cause to celebrate, ‘sustainability’ should encompass a much wider set of concerns.
So, what is meant by ‘social sustainability’ in the context of the wine industry? On the one hand, it is about being aware of the impacts (both positive and negative) that wine business activities have across the wine value chain. Wine companies and professionals should take steps to mitigate social risks and ensure no harm is caused through their business practices. However, they can and should do more than just this. Social sustainability is also about cultivating business practices that promote human wellbeing and inclusivity. This involves wine professionals taking action together to make the industry and our wine community more inclusive, diverse, democratic, equitable, and connected. In doing so, the wine industry will be better placed to conserve the rich cultural heritage of wine and to share it with a more diverse global community. To guide participants through this year’s special theme, wine2wine has recruited a number of inspirational speakers who exemplify social sustainability through their various initiatives.
The keynote speaker for this year’s edition will be Yannick Benjamin, a renowned sommelier, para-athlete, and a real changemaker in the wine world. In 2003, a car accident left Benjamin paralyzed from the waist down. He quickly learnt to adapt, outfitting his wheelchair with a table that allows him to work the floor as a sommelier. He co-founded Wheeling Forward, a nonprofit that is driving progress in the disability community. To support Wheeling Forward Yannick hosts an annual fundraising event, Wine on Wheels, which has since become a vibrant “community that has rallied around Wheeling Forward by turning wine into hope”. He has also mentored Italy’s first wheelchair sommelier, Mirko Pastorelli, whose moving story was recently featured in SevenFiftyDaily. Yannick’s tireless work and innovative vision is bringing awareness and visibility to seldom-heard voices in the wine industry and championing inclusivity. Wine Spectator aptly talks about Benjamin revealing a “kinder, gentler side of the profession”.
Among the other speakers contributing to the social sustainability theme is Kristina Kelley (E. & J. Gallo Winery) on "Why Corporate Social Responsibility Matters: Connecting People and Planet". Kelley emphasises that “social sustainability fosters an environment where all dimensions of diversity are valued, creating an environment where people are free to share unique perspectives, encouraging collaboration and driving innovation”. In addition, wine writers Julia Coney and Elaine Chukan Brown will be bridging the themes of social sustainability and marketing in their talk about "Responsibility in Wine Communication", which will provide the audience with “key takeaways for how to respect and work with the social diversity of the US market in this period of swift cultural change”.
Writer Robert Joseph will talk about "Different Models of Sustainability and their Value for your Wine Business", reminding us that the principles of social sustainability should not be seen as contrary to economic viability but rather as complimentary and mutually reinforcing. Tim Banks (Ornellaia Winery) will provide some key lessons for sustainability approaches arising from Ornellaia’s Vendemmia d’artista (VDA) project, which since 2009 has donated all the funds raised through its charity auctions to art foundations and museums around the world. Among them, is a Guggenheim project to ensure individuals who are blind or have low vision can experience art through all their senses. Discussions of ecological sustainability still remain critical to the wine2wine forum. Afterall, a comprehensive treatment of sustainability should highlight its multifaceted character, including its social, economic, cultural, and ecological aspects. Gaia Gaja (Gaja Winery) for example, will be discussing the Gaja estates pioneering work on “Mitigating the effects of climate change in vineyards”, drawing out key takeaways for wine producers.
wine2wine will also include a number of other key themes such as: “Uniting New Technologies and Wine”; “Revolutionizing Marketing & Communication Strategies”; “Humanizing Management and Leadership”; “Understanding Export Markets”; “Integrating Market Insights into Viticulture and Oenology”; and “Demystifying Wine Economics, Finance and Law”. A provisional programme for the event so far has been published on wine2wine’s website, along with a list of confirmed speakers.
This year’s edition of wine2wine includes a number of new faces to the wine forum, who are all experts in their field. A key emphasis of wine2wine this year is ensuring that wine producers and other industry professionals leave each session with a list of clear, implementable takeaways to strengthen and enrich their wine businesses. The event promises to be full of thoughtful discussions and to provide an abundance of innovative ideas to ensure attendees are equipped to successfully navigate and embrace these times of social change.
Tickets for wine2wine are now available at the following link:
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