We explore how the virtual format of The Old Vine Conference created an environment in which the conference’s aims could thrive.
The Old Vine Conference was created with a singular aim: galvanising a global movement to nurture and value great old vines, and their wines.
With a global outlook at the heart of their ethos, a digital conference was a great opportunity to give their message a truly international reach and focus with Swirl Wine Group acting as conference and PR partner, executing the events and securing coverage.
An incredible global response
We had an incredible response to the first Old Vine Conference, with over five hundred guests from more than twenty countries. It would have been unlikely to have achieved such a range with an in-person conference. We achieved 29 pieces of coverage for our client, in publications including The Telegraph and the Financial Times. Not to mention extensive features in the trade press.
Even more significantly, The Old Vine Conference also received hundreds of emails from new old vine champions all over the world who had been able to tune in and learn about why this ancient vines are so vital.
Connecting likeminded experts
The really transformative, powerful thing about this conference being held digitally was its ability to foster connections which otherwise would have been challenging. In almost every region and every country there are passionate, visionary individuals with a deep level of knowledge of their own specific old vines who had no idea that there were people like them, doing similar things in another part of the world. There was a parable send of excitement – of gratitude, even – when people were able to learn from each other in this way.
Changing perceived wisdom
Prior to this conference, there had been a palpable sense that the trade was acquiescing to the loss of these heritage vineyards. There was a belief that it was too hard to communicate to consumers why old vines are so special, an attitude which had bred apathy in some quarters.
But by bringing together people like Marco Simonit in Italy, Dylan Grigg in Australia and Jean-Philippe Roby in France – highly respected practitioners with incredible applied knowledge and understanding of how to cultivate these old vineyards – has completely upended accepted wisdom.
The digital format meant that these experts are no longer lone voices in the wilderness. They have been presented to the trade as a united, loud front.
As Sarah Abbott MW says:
“Since our first event in March, we have been contacted by passionate winemakers and old vines experts from around the world who want to engage with our initiative. This shows that there is a real need to harness this passion and turn it into real actions that can help secure the future of old vines around the world.
We have already started to build a network of regional ambassadors and producer sponsors around the world which will allow us to continue to develop future events and connections.”
But in-person meetings are still important
The one failing of this digital conference format is that we couldn’t share the selection of old vine wines we wanted to. While each of these wines may seem disparate, when united in a tasting under the banner of ‘old vines’ you can trace the effect these heritage vines have on their wines.
This future hope was reflected in our recent survey of virtual versus in-person events. 68% people said that the ability to taste and connect with others could not be replicated online, an important lesson as we come to plan future Old Vine Conferences.