Global Voices Highlight Remote B.E.V. New York Conference
By Chris Gerling
B.E.V. NY, Cornell’s annual Business, Enology and Viticulture conference, was one of the last events to take place in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic made large gatherings impossible. While an in-person meeting was still not feasible by March 3-5 of this year, organizers were able to create a new experience for B.E.V. attendees by holding a remote meeting. With no travel logistics or costs, a much wider net could be cast for speakers, and the conference took full advantage of the opportunity. B.E.V. NY 2021 may have not had the feel of the traditional meeting, but it did feature a range of renowned speakers from across the country and around the world.
A Who’s Who of Wine, Grape and Marketing Experts
The conference included presentations by Jancis Robinson, OBE, ComMA, MW, legendary British wine critic, journalist and wine writer; Dr. Hans Schultz, Professor and President of Hochschule Geisenheim University in Germany; and Dr. Patricia Howe and Dr. Andrew Waterhouse from the University of California at Davis. B.E.V. NY also included a host of researchers, winemakers and industry experts from Oregon, California, Germany and New York. While there were many voices from further afield, plenty of Cornell personnel were included in all three aspects of the conference.
New Format, New Schedule
The B.E.V NY conference has traditionally used the name to set the agenda: day one for business, day two for enology and day three for viticulture. Since the virtual format allows people to come and go as they wish, and since six or more hours of videoconferencing in one day is a lot, the format was changed and each day contained two hours each of business, enology and viticulture. Registration also allowed any attendee to view any or all of the conference content, regardless of topic or time. As a result, many attendees were able to sit in on presentations that may not have had access to in previous years. This “cross-pollination” combined with people attending from places where travel would usually be difficult, made for rich, albeit remote, discussions.
Not Better, Not Worse, Just Different
All in all, the general sense from organizers and attendees is that B.E.V. was a very worthwhile and positive experience. While this year’s edition certainly lacked the social and networking features of the usual version, there was a wider range of speakers and new faces in the (virtual) audience. Having each topic on each day allowed for attendees to expand their educational horizons and made the questions and discussions more layered. It’s hard to know what aspects of the virtual format will translate into lasting changes for the conference; the number one goal is to not have to do it virtually again next year, but certain parts may indeed stick. For 2021, in what could have been a lost year, people were able to hear thoughts on emerging wine regions and climate change from some of the world authorities on the subjects. All in all, that’s not so bad.
We would like to acknowledge the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, who played an integral role in organizing and supporting B.E.V. NY. We also would like to thank Gemma Osborne, Kimberly Paul and Brittany Griffin for their assistance.
Christopher Gerling is a senior extension associate at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY , and is based in the department of food science at Cornell.