Wine leaders from around the globe will meet in Seattle July 26-27 to attend the sixth annual World Vinifera Conference, a symposium devoted to elevating wine quality and the enjoyment of fine wine world-wide.

The conference is significant to the Washington wine industry because it underscores the emergence of local wines on the world stage. More than 300 people from throughout the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom will attend.

"Washington wines are now competing with, and in many instances, outpacing some of the greatest wine growing regions in the world," says Washington Wine Commission Executive Director Steve Burns. "Wine consumers and producers world-wide are very excited about the quality of Washington wines."

The international symposium gets underway as demand for Washington wine continues to grow. Washington State vineyard acreage doubled in the last six years, according to a USDA study released earlier this spring, and in 1999 a new Washington State winery opened once every 13 days.

In keeping with the World Vinifera Conference theme, the "Quest for Quality," the Washington Wine Commission will announce the details of its newly formed Washington Wine Quality Alliance (WWQA) later this month. WWQA members agree to follow high-quality production standards set by the WWQA. The alliance is the first of its kind in the country.

Keynote Speaker from Food & Wine

The World Vinifera Conference begins Wednesday, July 28 at 8:30 a.m. with opening remarks from Food & Wine magazine's wine editor Lettie Teague. She will speak on the American public's pursuit of quality. How do they define it? What will they pay for it? What can the wine industry learn from other luxury goods about quality?

The first day of the conference will conclude with "Taste Washington," the public's only chance to participate in the World Vinifera Conference. Fifty Washington wineries will pour a featured wine perfectly paired with a dish from one of 24 local restaurants from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now through the Washington Wine Commission office, 206/667-9463, for the July 26 event at Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center on Pier 66 in Seattle.

Wine industry luminaries attending the World Vinifera Conference include Piero Antinori, Marchesi Antinori, Italy; James Halliday, Southcorp Wines, Australia; Sarah Kemp, Decanter Magazine, London; Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, Germany; and Marcel Ducasse, Chateau Lagrange, France, among others.