By: Stacy Briscoe
Marco Cervellera, oenologist for Fattoria La Vialla in Italy, has attended wine technology conference Enoforum since its inception in 2000. Twenty years ago, the event hosted no more than 100 people. Today, Enoforum boasts a reputation as the largest technical-scientific conference for the wine trade in all of Europe. It brings together vendors and suppliers, scientific researchers, as well as grape growers, wine producers and wine-based businesses of all sizes. In 2021 Enoforum comes to the U.S. for the first time.
Fattoria La Vialla is a family-owned winery, with vineyards in Lombardy, Marche, and Sicily—all of which are certified organic and biodynamic. “The style of the wines is strictly respectful of terroir,” Cervellera said. “Therefore, the first rule is respect for the soil and its fertility.”
Cervellera has participated in Enoforum as both a speaker and a spectator and says his main purpose for attending each year is the opportunity to discuss the newest scientific information with his wine industry peers.
“Being biodynamic and respectful of nature does not mean leaving anything to chance. It’s necessary to have a precise scientific understanding in order to anticipate and avoid potentially harmful phenomena both in the vineyard and in the cellar,” Cervellera said. “In fact,” he added, “One must be more learned because, often, chemical intervention (such as SO2) cannot be used.”
Like a traditional tradeshow, attendees can meet-and-greet with a whole host of vendors and suppliers at one collaborative event. But the platform of Enoforum is more than a day full of seminars or an event hall crammed with sales reps trying to attract the attention of potential customers. Instead, the goal is to teach the wine industry audience the science behind those products and innovations.
“Very simply put, it’s a collaboration of suppliers, researchers, and producers—we (the wine industry) cannot generate innovation without any one of these,” said Gianni Trioli, Enoforum’s creator and president of Vinidea.
Indeed, what makes the wine trade event unique from any other is the collaboration between these three industry entities. Whether educational seminar, product demonstration, or a winemaker’s trial tasting, nothing is presented without the expert input of a scientific researcher and, in many cases, a hands-on practitioner (whether viticulturist or cellar master) who can speak to the advantages and disadvantages of the product, technique, or scientific breakthrough being discussed.
“Enoforum is great for companies that wants to promote a novelty, a new technique, or a new product since it has many potential customers in the audience. But at the same time, they have to scientifically motivate and detail the results obtained exposing themselves—very openly—to potential criticism,” Cervellera said.
“It’s also great for the research institutions,” he continued. “They have the opportunity to present research and immediately interact with potential end-users of their studies, allowing for expansion or modification to their research in the next steps according to observations and practical implications that Enoforum attendees point out.”
Jose Santos, president and CEO off Enartis, participated in Enoforum for several years at several international locations—Italy, Spain, Portugal—before moving to the U.S. in 2010. Now, as someone who regularly attends U.S.-based wine technology symposiums, Santos posits that the current model for these domestic tradeshows is outdated. “Most ‘technical’ conferences in the U.S. disregard the contribution of the industry suppliers. We are welcome to sponsor, but when we ask for speaking opportunities, we are treated as if we are selling snake oil,” he said. “This was how European events were like before Enoforum—and the result is that most conferences disappeared.”
By acknowledging the contribution of supplier companies like Enartis to the continuous development of the wine industry and allowing them to speak to their innovations from a scientific standpoint, attendees benefit from learning directly about the tools available to them. “Enoforum allows for … contextualizing the scientific aspect of a new tool, with immediate practical application. It allows—in one event—to present the scientific, technical, and practical aspects of the products we sell,” Santos explained.
The two-day conference set for May 5 and 6, 2021 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, will follow the same format as those hosted in the E.U. Though the exact agenda is still in development, past events have included up to 70 different exhibitions for attendees to choose from.
“At Enoforum 2019, I devoured all the talks,” commented Santos. “To the point that I skipped lunch one of the days because there were so many interesting presentations.”
Trioli, Cervellera and Santos were also all quick to point out that the form and format of Enoforum is very casual, “not restrictive.” There’s no VIP tickets and all attendees and participants—regardless of wine production or business sizes—are welcome on equal footing to attend whichever experiences cater to their specific interests. As Santos noted, “The wine industry isn’t just premium wines and wineries. In fact, the larger volume, not-so-glamorous wines are the engine of the industry.”