Lessons from Liège – Takeaways from the Born Digital Wine Awards Summit
I love ideas.
I love wine.
And I love communications.
So when I learned that A Balanced Glass was the runner-up for the Innovation Award at this year’s Born Digital Wine Awards and would be headed to Liège, Belgium, to join other winners and judges, you bet I was excited.
The Born Digital Awards Summit, sponsored by wine closure company Vinventions, brought together 16 wine journalists, editors, authors, presenters, communicators and educators from around the world to debate truth, innovation and evolution in wine, and to challenge firmly-held beliefs.
Over two days, numerous topics were discussed, but the group chose to prioritize four topics for further industry consideration: packaging, wine tourism and education, wine media, and health and wellness.
While it’s not possible to cover everything we debated, here are a few action items I would like to see move forward:
Rekindle the relationship between wine and culture
Consumer attitudes toward wine and alcohol are changing fast. We need to take action in the face of the expanding discussion around mindful drinking, low-alc/no-alc trends and the worry about losing market share to other beverages, or “share of entertainment”.
Maybe what the industry really needs is less innovation, and more a return to its roots. In-person communication, gathering like-minded people and encouraging wine to be shared with food, community and family. As the world become more atomized, isolated, depressed and anxious, how can we reconnect wine and community, gathering and communing?
Make wellness a priority for industry professionals
From the extremely challenging working conditions in grape growing and winemaking, to the pressure felt by people to be “included” in the drinking culture, wine industry professionals are suffering both mentally and physically. The wine industry is about more than growth, profit and consumption, and it needs to focus more on long-term sustainable wellness, if the community is to thrive and grow.
More transparency and access to information
Wine professionals must demand better access to information on the impact of wine (and alcohol) on health. The majority of conference attendees had little to no formal training, or information on the risks of working with wine and alcohol, despite being professionals of long standing. Clear expectations around wine and alcohol use in the workspace had never been outlined to them, and nearly all the attendees relied on self-moderation, discretion and discipline to maintain a healthy balance and boundary around wine.
Modeling of responsible behavior in the workplace
Managers need to be clear about what is and is not appropriate consumption at work or work events, and senior staff need to model good drinking behavior for their organizations. Having worked in a very poorly led organization and an exceptional one, it’s clear to me that this kind of leadership has a big impact on staff mental and physical health. Excess consumption blurs the lines of acceptable behavior – those at the top need to start by setting a good example.
Changing industry attitudes toward those who choose not to drink
Making the choice to reduce or abstain from drinking can create stress and anxiety in the workplace. Not everyone who works in the wine business WANTS to drink – we must create safe spaces for people who choose not to drink, or who want to minimize their consumption. Everyone needs to feel safe, supported and welcomed into wine culture.
This subject will be opened up for discussion in an online platform, being convened by the Born Digital team on the Medium publishing platform. These are big, important questions that need your input – so please jump into the conversation, starting mid-June.
What We're Reading:
There's no shortage of wine stories and media inundating our IN Boxes. Here's what has piqued our interest this week.
Diageo Partners with MTV on ‘Sensible’ Drinking Campaign – DrinksBusiness.com
Multinational beverage firm Diageo has embarked upon a partnership with MTV International, to produce and distribute a campaign designed to encourage responsible drinking.
How the restaurant industry is tackling its substance abuse problem – Los Angeles Times
“The more conversation, the more transparency, the better — anything that supports folks in this industry, which has always been a great place to hide out.” Andrew Zimmern
Meet the Tribe!
Our community is only as strong as the company we keep, and here we meet some of the folks who make our profession so dynamic.
Dr. Damien Wilson, Hamel Family Chair of Wine Business Institute, Sonoma State University (USA)
Years in the Industry:
20 professional years, overlapping with 20 years as an academic. I grew up working in my parents’ convenience store in Darwin, NT, Australia, and in 1996 I moved to South Australia to study Wine Marketing at University of Adelaide.
I graduated from University of Adelaide with a degree in Agricultural Business and an Honors degree in Wine Marketing, then studied at University of South Australia for a Masters in Business and PhD in Wine Marketing. In 2006 I moved to France to teach Wine Business, first in the Loire, then Burgundy, before relocating with my family to California in 2015.
My Biggest Challenge To Wellness:
There are widespread demands across my teaching, mentoring and leadership roles in helping to direct the wine sector. Trying to balance those with the needs of a family with two teenage boys, alcohol can be used as much for medication, as relaxation and socialization so it’s something I work hard to stay on top of. There are no real guidelines or good mentoring for people to practice responsible alcohol consumption habits, so I have learned that ultimately you have to be in control of your own health.
How I Keep It Together To Stay Well:
After hitting 40 I had a health crisis. My French cheese habit combined with my discovery of American barbecue culture led to a serious spike in my cholesterol. I had a choice – go on statins, or change my lifestyle. Focusing on my health also forced me to reassess my alcohol consumption, which has become far more moderate.
I've fasted periodically for 5 years, and I’ve adopted a more plant-based diet. I also cycle 40 - 80 miles a week, workout twice a week, and earlier this year I started taking weekly yoga classes. I see a chiropractor to help manage my scoliosis, and yoga has drastically reduced my need for more regular visits. This combination of dietary modification, cardiovascular exercise, weight training, breathing and stretching has led to me feeling fitter than ever.
Let’s Meet Up!
As work life has it, we are traveling over the next few months and would love to see you.
Presenter at the CDO Executive Summit, in Atlanta June 26 (Cathy)
Attendee at Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines in Bordeaux, July 4 to 6 (Cathy)
Attendee at TEXSOM Sommelier Conference in Dallas, August 18 to 20 (Beck)
Attendee at Australian Women in Wine Awards in New York, Sept. 17 (Beck)
Emcee at Australia Decanted in Lake Tahoe, Oct. 6 to 9 (Cathy)