It was in Paris that the international wine industry last had the chance to meet face to face to do business and it will be in Paris that it will have the opportunity to do so again. The fact there have been two long hard years in-between will hopefully be quickly forgotten when Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris opens their doors between February 14 to 16. Richard Siddle spoke to Rodolphe Lameyse, chief executive of Vinexposium – the overall events business that owns the combined show – to get his immediate reaction to the news the show will officially go ahead.
Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris will have 2,800 exhibitors from 32 countries waiting to do business with buyers from across the world. Click here to find our more about the show.
For all the upheaval, uncertainty and new ways of working that everyone involved in the wine and spirits industries have had to introduce since the outbreak of Covid-19 no-one has been affected as badly as the international drinks exhibition sector.
Even when restaurants and bars have been forced to close they have still found ways to keep sales going and bring money into their businesses. For the likes of Wine Paris and Vinexpo Paris and ProWein it has meant somehow mothballing their companies, or finding completely new ways of working when it has been impossible for them to run live, in person events.
It was, therefore, not surprising to find Rodolphe Lameyse in a celebratory mood when we caught up on Monday morning to reflect on the news that Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris have been given the green light by the French government to officially go ahead with its much awaited show in February.
It’s the news that wine producers and buyers the world over have been waiting for. The chance to get back to doing business in the proper way. Face to face. Glass in hand. Over a spittoon.
“We all needed this show to happen and we were absolutely determined to make it happen,” says Lamesyse. “We also absolutely owe it to all our exhibitors and partners, and, of course, all the buyers from around the world. This will be the first major international show for two years.”
He says his email inbox has been full of messages from buyers urging for the show to go ahead. “Our buyers really need this show to happen.”
As someone who has been involved in running trade shows, in multiple business sectors, for most of his career it’s clear just how happy Lamesye is at the prospect at being able to get back to work.
“I am personally so looking forward to seeing people meeting face-to-face again. It is the reason why I wake up in the morning. This is what this industry, in particular, is all about. People doing business over a glass of wine. This is something we all share. It is in our genes. It is going to be great to get back to what life should be about. People thinking and interacting and discussing and
sharing face-to-face. It’s human nature.
It is perhaps fortunate for the global wine industry that the first major event in 2022 was due to happen in France. Wine, after all, is the second biggest contributor to the French economy. Could President Macron’s government really stop an event that clearly has such significance for the country as a whole from taking place?
Lameyse says his team at Vinexposium have been working closely with the French government for months to ensure the show could go ahead and that all the necessary health and safety measures are put in place.
“There has been a lot of discussion about how we can do this properly. Now the French government has made it clear that all trade shows can go ahead with no limit on participation and capacity. It really is such good news.”
But equally Lameyse was keen to stress Vinexposium would not have pushed and worked so hard to make the event happen if there was not the desire and appetite from the trade to attend.
“We have been in constant discussion with all out stakeholders, our buyers, our exhibitors to get their feedback. It was quite clear that they wanted this show to go ahead and it is because of them that it is happening.”
He adds: “The decision to go ahead was not easy, but it was also the only decision that could be made. As I told our team, we have a duty to our industry to make sure Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris goes ahead as planned.”
Vinexposium have also been able to have a dress rehearsal for the event by holding the World Bulk Wine Exhibition, which it also owns, in Amsterdam at the end of November at a time when the Omnicrom virus was on the ascendancy and the Netherlands government had put the country into a part lockdown.
Yet for all the external difficulties the show was able to go ahead safely and whilst numbers were down on previous years it still proved to be a vital show for the buyers and exhibitors that did attend.
“Yes, there were less buyers there, but the ones that came were the serious buyers that came to do business. It meant the exhibitors were happy as they had more time to talk to time to better quality buyers. All the safety measures were followed by those who came and people were willing to take on the extra measures of only having one glass and their own personal spittoon.”
He expects the same attitude and approach from buyers in Paris next month. “These are serious professionals who know what it takes and is needed to do business. We all now accept that Covid is something we will all have to learn to live with. We have to take the right measures to do business. We can’t be in a position again where we lock down the economy.”
The one thing Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris can’t control is French immigration rules and every finger possible is being crossed that the current restrictions that don’t allow UK visitors to enter France without a compelling reason will be lifted. Lameyse says he is “very confident” that will be the case.
Either way anyone wanting to attend the show will need to be vaccinated and be able to show the necessary documentation.
He is quite candid and expects overall visitors numbers to be down, but this is only to be expected considering the circumstances. The key will be attracting the quality, most influential buyers that Lameyse is quite confident will come. “We know the real buyers, the ones that need to do business will be in Paris.”
He expects a strong turn out of buyers from across Europe and north America, but does not expect any Chinese or Asian buyers to attend due to their Covid restrictions on travel.
As for the show itself Lamesyse says he is particularly pleased to see a 50% increase in the number of spirits exhibitors and how fast the event – BeSpirits – has proved itself to the spirits industry that Wine Paris and Vinexpo Paris are the right home for them too.
Other key areas include Wine Tech Perspectives, to help showcase digital and tech business within the wine sector, and La Nouvelle Vague which will highlight young winemakers and up and coming talents in the industry.
He is also looking forward to the full conference programme of masterclasses and seminars, part of the ON, and ‘Wine Talks’ on the key issues facing the overall sector. This is one area of Vinexposium’s content that it has been able to keep going in lockdown with a series of digital events and talks taking place during 2020 and 2021.
He admits that even for a seasoned events organiser who has been hit with all sorts of challenges, there is nothing that could have prepared Vinexposium for Covid and effectively the shutting down of your business as you knew it.
“It is, though, so much part of our genes as a trade show organiser to accept change and do what you have to do to keep going,” he explains. “That is what we have done. Not all events businesses have been able to do so. It takes a lot of resolve and a certain skills set to be able to constantly change your plans, often two or three times over.”
He adds: “It takes an iron nerve at times and you have to withstand a lot of pressure to keep your company alive when you are forbidden to trade. I am so proud of our team who have worked full steam around the clock. Our friends in Germany are the same. They are of the same mindset. It is a common gene we all share.”
“I just cannot wait to be able to welcome people to Paris. To be able to look people in the yes and see them doing business. That will make me very happy.”
Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris: Facts and Figures
- Anyone attending the show must have a Covid vaccination pass.
- Paid for PCR tests will be available at the entrance with results back in a day.
- It will be mandatory for visitors to wear face coverings apart from when they are tasting wine.
- An individual digital access badge (e-badge) will be allocated to each visitor.
- There will be enhanced cleaning throughout the show for everyone’s health and safety.
- The show runs from February 14 to 16 at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.
- 2,800 exhibitors from 32 countries have signed up to take part which is up from 2,200 in 2020.