Between June 22 and 25, wine industry experts from business, academia and government are gathering on the Whitman College campus for the eighth annual conference of the American Association of Wine Economists.
The AAWE is a nonprofit, educational organization that focuses on creating a community of experts contributing to the field of wine economics. The event is cohosted by Whitman and Walla Walla Community College, and is sponsored by local businesses, including many Walla Walla wineries.
"Wine economics as a field is certainly growing, and you see more and more of these economists cited in popular press," said Assistant Professor of Economics Lee Sanning, who is taking part in the conference.
"People are getting interested in the academic side of wine, geology and winemaking, production, and marketing and investments."
Whitman College has a strong connection to the AAWE: former faculty member Karl Storchmann, who is now clinical professor of economics at New York University, is managing editor of the AAWE's "Journal of Wine Economics." The journal covers topics that relate to the business of wine, as well as viticulture and enology.
Professor of Geology Kevin Pogue, whose work on terroir has been featured in publications such as "The New York Times," also delivered a presentation titled "The Terroirs of the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area" on June 23. According to Pogue, the lecture covered "the geologic underpinnings of the winegrowing region here in Walla Walla: what makes it unique, and what's interesting about our terroir."
Pogue also led a tour of Walla Walla vineyards to discuss terroir and, in particular a new American Viticultural Area called The Rocks. Pogue petitioned for the creation of this new AVA, which is located on the border between Washington and Oregon.
Sanning, who taught a class on wine economics this past spring, also chaired a session on wine investment on June 23. He considers himself somewhat of a wine investor.
"I have some cases of wine that I was buying in the early 2000s - Bordeauxs - and I probably have 60 cases in my cellar, and maybe five or ten of those would be investables," Sanning said. And if it turns out the return isn't great on that particular wine, "you can always exercise the implicit option to consume and pop the cork!"
Other sessions will cover topics including: consumer behavior and marketing; import and export; regulatory concerns; investment opportunities; agricultural issues; and the economic advantages that a strong wine industry brings to its local area.
The next two AAWE conferences take place in Mendoza, Argentina and Bordeaux, France. "For Walla Walla to be included in these wine regions we're in - Argentina next year, then we're in Bordeaux - is a great accomplishment," said Sanning.
For more information, go to http://www.wine-economics.org/.