The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium is Jan. 29-31 in Sacramento. It’s a vital show for both business and technical people in the wine industry.

It was created when the American Society for Enology and Viticulture and the California Association of Winegrape Growers joined forces in 1995 after holding separate grape-growing and wine-making conferences. It has become the largest wine and grape conference in the U.S., though it’s dwarfed by some in Europe.

Last year, the show attracted more than 12,400 from all over the world, also making it the biggest conference held in the state’s capitol. It could be bigger this year due to the improved economy and continuing growth in the industry.

The show has two formal segments, the conference program and the trade show, but the informal gatherings among colleagues and suppliers may be just as important — and interesting.

The trade show is once again being headed by Nick Frey, director of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission. “The goal of the Program Development Committee is to ensure the UW&GS program delivers valuable information to our industry that can be directly translated to businesses,” he said.

The programs are split into general morning sessions and afternoon breakout sessions. The Program Development Committee established a theme for each daily general session, with the afternoon breakout sessions expanding on those themes:

Tuesday will focus on how the global wine business affects U.S. growers and wineries, including fluctuating currency values, grape/bulk sourcing options, export opportunities, and tariffs and duties.

On Wednesday, the State of the Industry general session will look at U.S. production and sales trends. This session will also provide an overall economic perspective of the wine industry and economy at large, vineyard acreage/crush numbers, a broker overview on the bulk wine markets, wine inventories and international bulk wine supplies.

It’s always informative and entertaining, notably the talks by Nat DiBuduo of Allied Grape Growers, and Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, who always picks a winery of the year.

Thursday’s sessions will focus on leading consumer trends and issues affecting wineries and growers, including building brands and how consumers respond to change.

The afternoon sessions will cover such subjects as mechanization in vineyards, important as the labor force shrinks, regulatory update, foreign investments in the U.S., distribution, redevelopment and replanting in the current environment and strategies for future sourcing requirements.

For many, the trade show is the most interesting part of the show. It allows vineyard and winery managers to check out the latest equipment, materials and services.

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Who can resist the tractors and giant harvesters? No grown-up boy I know. Kick some of these tires, however, and you’ll break your toe. They’re massive.

There also are plenty of chance to taste wine, including those from other areas of the United States that are making increasingly good wines.

The Unified Symposium is at the Sacramento Convention Center in downtown Sacramento. The conference hotels may be booked, but it’s not too far for a day trip, though that misses the evening fun.

My only frustration is not being able to escape the show to take advantage of most of the other attractions, though I always try to sneak in a visit to the amazing Corti Brothers market and Fry’s Electronics, though the last can be very expensive trip.

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Email Paul Franson at The Business End appears every other week on the Register On Wine pages.