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What it’s Like to be President of an International Wine Organization

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Professor Régina Vanderlinde has exchanged her lab coat for a smartly tailored suit. She also switched her focus from the minutiae of scientific research to the broader challenges facing  the wine world in the 21st century.

The changes are the result of her election to president of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), which has 15 full-time employees and more than 1,000 experts on call.

Vanderlinde is the third consecutive woman to become president of the Paris-based organization.

This 95-year-old intergovernmental scientific and technical body uses most of its $1.67 million (1.5 million euros) budget to promote collaboration between 47 grape- and wine-producing member countries.

Balancing OIV, teaching and research

After chairing the OIV’s scientific sub-committee on wine analysis and more than 30 years of scientific research, Vanderlinde relishes the challenge of global travel during her three-year term.

She combines this role with her professorship of biotechnology at the Universidade de Caxias do Sul in Brazil.

“I have an office at the university as well as a lab. Before my OIV role, I used to be in the lab every morning at 8:30 and work until lunch, but now it’s very different,” Vanderlinde explains in English, which is her third language. She is also fluent in Portuguese and French.

“I have six students working on their masters’ degrees and doctorates, so in the mornings, I am meeting them to discuss their research.”

Her graduate students are studying topics like allergens in fining agents or water addition to grape must. But Vanderlinde also has her own research to conduct.

Currently, she is exploring the isotopic analysis of grape juice. Like every academic all over the world, whether they are president of a worldwide organization or not, Vanderlinde too must teach and publish.

The day-to-day

“My job at the university is to teach, to mark papers and to publish my own research in scientific journals. I also peer-review papers from other scientists,” says Vanderlinde.

“By July, I need to start new projects and have to write up my own proposal for research.”

She likes to break her day at lunch and follow that with an early afternoon gym session. Though she sheepishly acknowledges her gym time is “not as often these days.”

She used to stay on campus, but since becoming OIV president, she works from home in the afternoons.

“I have weekly Skype meetings with the general director who is based in Paris,” she says. Vanderlinde also liaises with her vice president and the sub-committees.

“Right now, we are working on the strategic plan for the next five years,” says Vanderlinde. “The OIV is very concerned with climate change and sustainability. These are the general ideas, and we are now looking what needs to be done specifically.”

There is also the paperwork—labelling, standardization of commercial documentation in a global industry and maintaining good relationships with other international organizations.

“The job is technical and political at the same time,” she says.

From China to Cyprus to Canada

There is a lot of travel, as Vanderlinde jets between to conferences, congresses and competitions around the world, representing the OIV.

“Next month, I will be in China, Canada and South Korea. I also gave a presentation at the Eighth World Congress of Viticulture Co-operatives in Brazil, for instance.”

Earlier this year, she served as a judge at international wine competitions in Paris, Bordeaux, Lisbon and Switzerland.

Through it all, she remains a wine lover at heart.

Apart from the travel, research and paperwork? “I lead a very normal life,” the scientist says with a smile.