It’s back to work and back to normality for most of us this week. The normalcy of the daily grind has mostly returned but for some there is the frenzied excitement of the harvest which has already started. A further sign of the new year in wine industry circles is the Nedbank VinPro Information Day. On 21 January, the usual suspects of industry will gather again at the CTICC to listen to reviews, overviews, outlooks, strategies etc.
Before we look ahead to this year’s agenda, a quick glance back at the 2015 event, to refresh our memories. The buzz was most famously around the appearance of Jancis Robinson MW who gave us an informative – if slightly underwhelming – talk on International Wine Trends. The rest of the program was filled with slots covering international and domestic markets, the importance of agriculture as a game-changer in our local economy, economic outlooks, wine tourism and it ended with a segment presenting WISE (Wine Industry Strategic Exercise).
It was the first information day I attended, but I’m an old pro at sitting through seminars and conferences so I was prepared for an all-day information assault. I still have my notes from the day but I feel it more useful to simply convey the overall impressions that I still have of the day, 12 months later.
In a nutshell, I believe the Information Day is a necessary, useful tool and that the timing at the beginning of the year is great – starting us all off with at least a semblance of a united front. The 2015 Info Day was a mixed bag. A number of presentations left me disappointed, with the content of the topic veering wildly from what I expected from the title (Reesberg’s wine tourism talk and a large part of Irving’s Domestic and African Markets segment, most notably). The keynote speaker, Jancis Robinson, had some excellent insights in international wine trends but as the quality of the talk itself went, I felt that she was simply reading off a long list. An insightful and interesting list. But still a list.
Clearly my critique here is aimed at individual speakers, but when the speakers billed don’t perform to expectation, it detracts from the entire exercise. Overall though, I remember the content and discussions being solid and for the most part, of good quality.
For 2016, the Info Day has a rather ambitious theme: “Changing the Wine Game”. It’s ambitious in a sense that it makes a very bold claim – to change the wine game is no small task. But it feels like a step in the right direction. I think it’s a good theme. It has potential. I’m especially looking forward to an update on WISE and what’s potting for the year ahead.
When I look at the theme, my mind adds a second word. Challenging. Challenging the wine game. Which I think is how we’ll go about changing it – by challenging the status quo. By challenging the stubborn old guard who are too stuck in their ways to be interested in change and improvement. By challenging the lazy gits who permeate our beloved industry, cruising around from place to place being nothing more than opportunistic parasites who contribute nothing but take as much as they can. Challenge everything that’s wrong and champion everything that’s right.
So today, I challenge every speaker, organiser and attendee of this year’s Information Day to bring their A-game. Question everything. Challenge opinions. Break the discussions wide open and tear yourselves away from the same, boring old rhetoric that we so desperately cling to.
Most of all, I challenge every single one of you to not let it end with the information days, the seminars, the talk. We’re extremely good at the talk. Sometimes, we’re about as proficient as a newborn giraffe when it comes to the walk.