The Italian Trade Commission is bringing the wines of the Veneto, Calabria, Puglia and Tuscany to the Big Apple this week via Vino 2010. I’ll be speaking on a panel moderated by Anthony Dias Blue (author, editor of Tasting Panel Magazine, San Francisco Wine and Spirits Comp, and wine and food personality) alongside Susannah Gold of Vigneto Comms., Susanna Crociani of her family’s eponymous winery in Siena, Doug Cook of Able Grape and Alder Yarrow, author of Vinography, arguably the oldest wine blog in the world. The focus of the panel is “Millennials, social media and technology’s seductive appeal, and its growing role in reaching, informing, entertaining tomorrow’s Italian wine drinking customers.”

The bad news is if you haven’t reserved a seat, the session is sold out. But the good news is, the ITC folks will be video streaming the session on the Vino 2010 website. And true to the title of the session, viewers will be able to interact with the panel by tweeting questions and comments to @vino2010 or @JRvino2010. (You can also tweet me @Stevenraye)

I’m still fine tuning my intro but will be presenting data on who the Millennials are, how they’re different from prior wine-consuming generations and how to engage with them using the new tools of social media. (The pic is of me in Pompeii at one of the many “wine bars” in the city that set the fashions for Imperial Rome…Falernum anyone?)

The real fun will be the conversation and questions that follow the panelists’ opening comments. Joe Roberts of 1WineDude called Andy out on comments he made about the legitimacy of bloggers in the July 2009 issue of Tasting Panel Magazine:

“And who are these bloggers anyway and, more important, what is their motivation? It would be comforting to find that they are altruistic wine lovers who see their purpose as bringing insight and valuable information to like-minded consumers. But the image that presents itself is of bitter, carping gadflies who, as they stare into their computer screens and contemplate their dreary day jobs, let their resentment and sense of personal failure take shape as vicious attacks on the established critical media.”

Never content to leave well enough alone, Joe posted AGAIN with a great title: “Guy who possibly hates wine blogging to give talk on Wine Blogging at Vino 2010”

Inflammatory? Yes, but that’s what sets up a good panel discussion. I expect that Andy’s vitriol may have been tempered by time (hey, 6 months in Internet time is an eternity) and I look forward to hearing him squizzle out of this one.

To be fair, I spoke to Andy about his POV and it was more a function of contrasting blogging with traditional journalism where editorial review, fact checking and “journalistic integrity” have a history as a profession. I was a communications major in college and while I never had a “legit” journalism job, coming from the school where Strunk and White taught and wrote their little book I take the subject very seriously.

So much so that I organized a Wine and Spirit Blogger summit last year. We gathered some of the top thought leaders from both the wine and spirit blogosphere to explore why there is such a dichotomy in philosophy and practice between the spirits and wine folks and what each group could learn from the other. What came out quite clearly was that the spirit folks actively court involvement and engagement with brands and their PR agencies. In contrast, the wine bloggers are more likely to publish their angst about integrity, transparency, bias (both real and implied) and whether its ok to accept samples or trips. The net result of the summit wasn’t what I had hoped, but it did highlight the dramatic and one might say polarizing difference between the two categories.

So back to Vino 2010…if you’re at all interested in this subject, then I think you’ll find the conversation on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 10AM EST interesting and enlightening. You can access the video stream somewhere on the Vino 2010 site (I’ll post a direct link if I can get the exact URL). And do please participate in the discussion by contributing your questions via Twitter.