Region toasts return of wine conference

Marlborough is to host the New Zealand Winegrowers Romeo Bragato conference, the largest conference on the wine industry calendar, for the third year in a row.

News that the conference, held in the last week of August, would return to Blenheim was welcomed by the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and retailers yesterday.

With about 500 conference participants, half of them from out of town, an event of that scale was worth about $1 million to the Marlborough economy, the Marlborough District Council said.

Traditionally, the conference rotated between Auckland, Hawke's Bay and Marlborough, but for the past two years it has been held in Blenheim at the Marlborough Convention Centre.

This year's conference is being held August 27-29.

The conference brings together grape growers, winemakers and trade representatives and was key to the industry, New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said.

"The conference provides an important opportunity for the industry to evaluate their international positioning, learn from the latest research, and share ideas on how to improve their business."

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman welcomed the return of Marlborough's biggest industry's conference.

Feedback from conference organisers had been very positive with Blenheim's location shown to work well for both exhibitors and delegates, he said.

"Once again they will be using the Marlborough Convention Centre with arrangements to erect the large exhibition marquees at the front of the Clubs' complex to create sufficient space for an event of this scale.

"It just goes to show that with enough space available we can draw the big events here."

Sowman said it would be terrific to see Marlborough as the permanent home base for the conference.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager Hamish Macfarlane backed that, saying most of the wine industry was in Marlborough.

"It's blinking fantastic. Jokes aside, it's where it should be, in Marlborough."

Retailer Kim Andrews, who owns Thomas's Department Store with family members, said retailers were "very pro-conference".

"That can certainly only help."

Having conference-goers walking through Blenheim during the winter slowdown gave retailers a "fillip" of a few extra people around town who might be interested in buying something.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the Romeo Bragato conference had gone from strength to strength. "It's important for people to have time out to engage with the rest of the wine fraternity, take a breath, [and] learn from the expert comment."

The Marlborough Express