New Trends at Unified Wine and Grape Symposium
As winery and cellar workers bid adieu to another vintage, liveliness and excitement slowly begins to build in the wine industry for the upcoming year. Planning and purchasing begins and with perfect timing, and new trends as the annual Unified Wine and Grape Symposium blows into town just in time. Held in Sacramento, Unified is a great place for winery workers to get re-energized for the upcoming season. It is a one-stop-shop for all things wine and it is full of innovation, new ideas and products. This trade show boasts over 650 vendors displaying and showcasing their wares, products, and services to more than 12,000 people.
Attendees come from as far away as Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Texas and New York and it is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Hotels are booked a year in advance and can be a three year wait to get a vendor space. Held in the Sacramento Convention Center, the trade show takes over the entire 163,000 square feet of floor, the equivalent of three football fields! Every attendee who purchases a ticket gets a badge that identifies name, location, winery, and a scan code. Scan codes are used by vendors to scan badges so they can retrieve contact information without lifting a finger. This information is magically transported to their home base and a follow-up call or email is all but guaranteed.
This year, the vendors ranged from the weird to the standard. There was a push to put wine in boxes as well as reusing products like the barrel vendor that offered to purchased used barrels for a low price of $17 to to haul them away and make wine barrels furniture! The awe inspiring tractor demonstration is always interesting and leaves one wondering how they get all those tractors in the door. Cooperages were out in full-effect, including one whose display looks as if you are standing in the middle of a barrel. It was trendy to pour and serve Champagne and caviar, as well as pass out bottle stoppers and reusable bags.
Strolling past vendor after vendor, there is a sense that the wine industry is heading toward a technology boom. Labeling companies like Elite Label and Meritage displayed new wine labels with QR codes that consumers can snap with their smart phones to get more information about the wine as well as the soon-to-be popular metal labels. TankNet featured a completely automated cellar system that relays information to a smart phone so the winemaker’s don’t even need to step foot in their winery to know what is going on inside their barrels. Computerized POS (point of sale) systems where out in full force trying to convince consumers that their software was better that the next. There was also a noticeable push from the capsule companies to use the ever-debatable screw-cap. Not convinced? Try the Zork, a hybrid screw cap, pull-tab capsule.
At the end of the day, reusable bags busting full of brochures, ideas, goodies and tired feet, are brought home. There is also a renewed hopefulness that a much brighter tomorrow of a constantly evolving and an incredibly interesting industry is before us. Nonetheless, it is still a surprise that a centuries old industry steeped in tradition, can still continue to have so much innovation and modernization. It is hopeful that next year will bring even more ideas and trends.