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Symposium's change of venue a success, organizers say

Wine event's temporary move to state fairgrounds provided 'many positive attributes,' says ASEV leader

The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium's temporary move to the home of the California State Fair provided "many positive attributes" despite its more spread-out talks, exhibits and lodging, the leader of one of the sponsoring groups said.

Held for the first time at Cal Expo in Sacramento, the 26th annual gathering Feb. 4-6 drew more than 13,000 registrants as the conference converted eight exhibit halls to meeting rooms and provided 200,000 square feet of space for the trade show's more than 700 exhibtors.

The conference offered 28 sessions featuring a record 128 presenters covering topics ranging from consumer trends to regulations.

“Cal Expo had many positive attributes that worked well for our show this year,” said Dan Howard, executive director of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV). “We’ve had positive responses to this temporary move from exhibitors and attendees, and we look forward to using insights gained this year to make the 2021 show even stronger.”

ASEV cosponsors the symposium along with the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG).

Temporary home

The fairgrounds were the event’s temporary home while the downtown Sacramento Convention Center is in the midst of a $120 million upgrade. While the downtown venue provides a more centralized location, the conference this year offered numerous shuttles to area hotels and offered Uber vouchers to those that didn't have access to a shuttle.

The Almond Conference in December also met at Cal Expo, and while that conference’s organizers were optimistic that the convention center would be ready for the 2020 gathering, the wine symposium booked Cal Expo again for Jan. 12-14, 2021 just in case it’s not.

With back-to-back large crops and oversupplied markets in 2018 and 2019, concerns of an oversupply dominated much of the conversation at this year's symposium, the largest wine industry event in North America. That oversupply, combined with the growth of competing new beverage products, fueled interest in presentations addressing new market expansions, alternative wine packaging and trade war impacts, organizers said.

“If you’re looking to stay competitive, get a full understanding of what’s happening in the wine and grape industry, and make key connections, the Unified Symposium is the place to be,” said John Aguirre, president of CAWG.

Here are some sights from this year's symposium.

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