Creating an Inclusive, Diverse, Ethical, and Democratic Wine Industry: wine2wine’s 2019 Special Theme to Focus on ‘Social Sustainability’

Vinitaly wine2wine is a dynamic international wine industry forum organized by Veronafiere. Now in its 6th edition, this year wine2wine will be held on November 25th and 26th in Verona, Italy. The event is a key reference point for wine producers and a diverse variety of wine professionals eager to develop and grow their wine businesses worldwide. This year wine2wine’s theme is ‘social sustainability’. wine2wine has recruited an inspiring line-up of speakers, including many new faces to the annual wine forum, to provide insights into social sustainability in the wine industry and other exciting themes.

After wine2wine’s annual forum provides a unique opportunity to reflect, discuss, and share ideas on the most important issues facing the rapidly evolving wine industry. It is a chance for the wine community to connect and combine its common passion and diverse expertise towards shaping a sustainable wine industry. wine2wine’s special theme for its 2019 edition is ‘social sustainability’. Sustainability has been a prime concern on the global agenda for some time now. However, like most buzzwords and silver bullets, its popularity risks rendering it devoid of substance. This troubling status quo represents a ‘call to action’ for the wine community to revitalise the sustainability agenda. wine2wine organisers this year would like to encourage visionary leadership within the wine community to truly embrace a more comprehensive definition of sustainability, one which puts social aspects at its core.

One challenge is that ‘sustainability’, in the context of the wine sector, has become synonymous with its ecological aspects alone. The direct economic resonance of climate change to the wine industry has in part contributed to an urgent focus on ecological sustainability. Organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines have gained global traction among producers and consumers alike, and frequently dominate discussions around ‘sustainability’ at wine industry forums. While the energy gathering around ecological sustainability is a cause to celebrate, ‘sustainability’ should encompass a much wider set of concerns.

So, what is meant by ‘social sustainability’ in the context of the wine industry? On the one hand, it is about being aware of the impacts (both positive and negative) that wine business activities have across the wine value chain. Wine companies and professionals should take steps to mitigate social risks and ensure no harm is caused through their business practices. However, they can and should do more than just this. Social sustainability is also about cultivating business practices that promote human wellbeing and inclusivity. This involves wine professionals taking action together to make the industry and our wine community more inclusive, diverse, democratic, equitable, and connected. In doing so, the wine industry will be better placed to conserve the rich cultural heritage of wine and to share it with a more diverse global community. To guide participants through this year’s special theme, wine2wine has recruited a number of inspirational speakers who exemplify social sustainability through their various initiatives.

Yannick Benjamin (Yannick Benjamin, wine2wine’s keynote speaker. Co-founder of Wine on Wheels & Wheeling Forward. Proprietor of Contento Restaurant NYC and Head Sommelier The University Club)

The keynote speaker for this year’s edition will be Yannick Benjamin, a renowned sommelier, para-athlete, and a real changemaker in the wine world. In 2003, a car accident left Benjamin paralyzed from the waist down. He quickly learnt to adapt, outfitting his wheelchair with a table that allows him to work the floor as a sommelier. He co-founded Wheeling Forward, a nonprofit that is driving progress in the disability community. To support Wheeling Forward Yannick hosts an annual fundraising event, Wine on Wheels, which has since become a vibrant “community that has rallied around Wheeling Forward by turning wine into hope”. He has also mentored Italy’s first wheelchair sommelier, Mirko Pastorelli, whose moving story was recently featured in SevenFiftyDaily. Yannick’s tireless work and innovative vision is bringing awareness and visibility to seldom-heard voices in the wine industry and championing inclusivity. Wine Spectator aptly talks about Benjamin revealing a “kinder, gentler side of the profession”.

Among the other speakers contributing to the social sustainability theme is Kristina Kelley (E. & J. Gallo Winery) on “Why Corporate Social Responsibility Matters: Connecting People and Planet“. Kelley emphasises that “social sustainability fosters an environment where all dimensions of diversity are valued, creating an environment where people are free to share unique perspectives, encouraging collaboration and driving innovation”. In addition, wine writers Julia Coney and Elaine Chukan Brown will be bridging the themes of social sustainability and marketing in their talk about “Responsibility in Wine Communication“, which will provide the audience with “key takeaways for how to respect and work with the social diversity of the US market in this period of swift cultural change”.

Writer Robert Joseph will talk about “Different Models of Sustainability and their Value for your Wine Business“, reminding us that the principles of social sustainability should not be seen as contrary to economic viability but rather as complimentary and mutually reinforcing. Tim Banks (Ornellaia Winery) will provide some key lessons for sustainability approaches arising from Ornellaia’s Vendemmia d’artista (VDA) project, which since 2009 has donated all the funds raised through its charity auctions to art foundations and museums around the world. Among them, is a Guggenheim project to ensure individuals who are blind or have low vision can experience art through all their senses. Discussions of ecological sustainability still remain critical to the wine2wine forum. Afterall, a comprehensive treatment of sustainability should highlight its multifaceted character, including its social, economic, cultural, and ecological aspects. Gaia Gaja (Gaja Winery) for example, will be discussing the Gaja estates pioneering work on “Mitigating the effects of climate change in vineyards”, drawing out key takeaways for wine producers.

wine2wine will also include a number of other key themes such as: “Uniting New Technologies and Wine”; “Revolutionizing Marketing & Communication Strategies”; “Humanizing Management and Leadership”; “Understanding Export Markets”; “Integrating Market Insights into Viticulture and Oenology”; and “Demystifying Wine Economics, Finance and Law”. A provisional programme for the event so far has been published on wine2wine’s website, along with a list of confirmed speakers.

This year’s edition of wine2wine includes a number of new faces to the wine forum, who are all experts in their field. A key emphasis of wine2wine this year is ensuring that wine producers and other industry professionals leave each session with a list of clear, implementable takeaways to strengthen and enrich their wine businesses. The event promises to be full of thoughtful discussions and to provide an abundance of innovative ideas to ensure attendees are equipped to successfully navigate and embrace these times of social change.

Tickets for wine2wine are now available. Companies interested in exploring sponsorship opportunities for wine2wine can visit our website or request additional information by contacting:


wine2wine is a dynamic international wine industry forum organized by Veronafiere and held annually in Verona, Italy, since 2014. wine2wine 2019 will take place on November 25th and 26th. The event is a key reference point for wine producers and wine professionals eager to develop and grow their wine business worldwide. wine2wine provides unique opportunities to share ideas on the most important issues facing the rapidly evolving wine industry and to connect with wine professionals and experts. The forum takes place over two days and features keynote sessions, seminars, and interactive workshops which aim to equip participants with practical tools to improve their business. Speakers are renowned experts in their field and among the brightest minds in the wine world from Italy and abroad. Additional information is available at or by emailing