Prowein is an overwhelming three days even for the most experienced and seasoned wine trade professional. But imagine doing it for the first time as a wine business student? Here Alexander Stone, currently studying for an MSc in wine at the Burgundy School of Business, gives a first timers’ insight in to Prowein, the global wine trade and somehow finds the time to enjoy a masterclass in to Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignons.
Often likened to wine’s equivalent to Disneyland, only with less mascots, fewer rides and, yes a lot more wine, Prowein is the greatest show on earth for wine businesses. Particularly for a newcomer like Alexander Stone.
It did feel at time a bit daunting walk among these titans of industry, knowing that anyone and everyone could change your career path entirely. The sheer scale of Prowein overwhelms the senses, before descending into the chaos your gaze wanders over the tops of the booths to note how gigantic the hall is you are entering. You quickly start to realise that three days is not going to be enough time
Wandering down the avenues of Prowein, you see producers from all walks of the wine and spirit industry; from the tiny, family owned wineries all the way to the ultra exclusive Champagne lounges. You can take a walk past New Zealand and while lost in the fine wines of Marlborough and Central Otago you suddenly realise you’ve somehow arrived in Israel.
After a couple tastings you try to retrace your steps, only to find yourself in Greece among the Assyrtiko and Ouzo. A labyrinth of booths confound the average new Prowein member at each turn, offering both delight at the new sights and frustration at not being able to try everything in equal measures.
Hidden in the German hall, amongst the hundreds of wine producers, there was also the chance to see first hand some of the latest technology that is now being used to transform the world of wine. From canned wine, personalised wine bottles, to new ways of transporting wine from country to country, there is so much to take in.
That’s before you even consider the hundreds of events and tastings taking part, before even working out where they might be. For business students these are a godsend, allowing tastings of wines from a range of markets and a chance to appreciate the difference in the varieties from Canada, Australia, Spain, Moravia, France, and much more.
You could easily fill your entire day with events, and the wary student needs to be sure to have a balance between education and business.
Where do I fit in?
It can all be quite intimidating. You see the suits walking around. The deals happening at the exclusive tables behind the counters with a couple bottles of wine and reams of papers spill around as serious women and men sit in hushed conversation. And you begin to wonder what exactly you have to offer. You don’t represent a distributor, you aren’t a reporter, you can’t offer any immediate business relations for them. You see the staff watching you as you stroll by their booth, a business gleam in their eyes, and you begin to wonder what you’re doing here. It can all be a bit overwhelming and humbling, a sudden realisation of your insignificance in the cosmos of the wine sector.
But fear not, one piece of advice that got me moving past this stumbling step; you are a future member of the wine sector. You are a future business asset. Yes, you will encounter many companies that are looking for people currently in the business world already. This is a sad reality. However, you will find many more that are happy to spend a few minutes networking with students. Many remember the days when they themselves were starting in the industry, and are happy to help a flailing student. So don’t be afraid to approach booths, you might strike out occasionally but others will be happy to welcome you.
Making a plan
My Advice? Plan, plan, plan. Plan your day. Plan your events. Plan where you want to visit and where you want to work. Always set aside more time than you think you’ll need, because there’s far more to see and experience at Prowein than you could possible imagine. One of the things you quickly realise while attending is that there is a dire need to prioritise. You’re not going to see it all in a mere three days, so make sure you know what you need to visit.
Look and observe even when just walking past stands. Prowein is a massive multicultural melting pot and you’ll see all different marketing methods. One day you might staff a booth here, or have your own. Take note of what’s working and what isn’t. Which booths attract your attention? Which staff most interest you? Why?
Prowein is exhausting, intimidating and overwhelming but it is also a fantastic experience. It provides a chance to glimpse the breadth of the wine business world, and will be one of the best business experiences you can have.
Waking up dreaming up of California
Here Alexander Stone shares his experiences of enjoying a fascinating insight in to the Cabernet Sauvignons being produced in Sonoma County, California in a special tasting hosted by the Wine Institute of California.
On the final morning of Prowein I woke up filled with instant regret. Not, as one may fairly assume, because of a hangover but rather due to having committed myself to attend a wine event at 9am. And not just any wine tasting, but a Cabernet Sauvignon one. But an hour and a half after waking up my concerns about tasting red wine so early in the day were quickly dispelled as I was guided on a journey through the Sonoma wine region and the delightful Cabernet Sauvignons of Kunde Family Winery, Dry Creek Vineyard, Silver Oak and Rodney Strong Vineyard.
Hosted by the Wine Institute of California, the Taste of Sonoma: Cabernet Sauvignon event was masterfully conducted. The range of wines were present before I and the twenty-seven other participants took our seats (so what time did they get up). The event may have been held in the midst of Prowein hall number 9 but the California Pavilion was sheltered from the bustling noise outside.
It proved to be a fascinating insight in to Sonoma County as a whole as well as the chance to discover in detail the wines from the four producers.
First of all did you know that Sonoma Country is primarily forest (49%, compared to a mere 6% vineyards), has a delightful Mediterranean climate and a rich, active geology contributing to a complex terroir, with a goal of being 100% fully sustainable by 2019. It is, though, the influence of the oceanic fog that comes in off the Pacific that makes Sonoma what it is, lowering temperatures and driving vines such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that need cooler climates to the soils closer to the ocean and the Cabernet Sauvignon vines further inland where the average temperature stayes warmer all day round.
Trip round Sonoma
We were privileged to start our tasting journey with a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Kunde Family Winery, located in the Sonoma Valley. Aged for 19 months in French oak, this smooth Cabernet filled with characters of black currant, liquorice, and cinnamon offered a fantastic start to a great flight of wines. Not to be outdone, our second wine from Dry Creek Valley was from Dry Creek Vineyard itself, a delightful Cabernet Sauvignon from the same vintage blended artfully with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a hint of Malbec to provide a fantastic earthy, black plum, silky tannin wine.
Next was a wine courtesy of Rodney Strong vineyards based out of Knights Valley, a 2014 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. Former ballet dancer and founder Rodney Strong apparently looked around one day and realised that you don’t see a lot of old ballet dancers around but you do see a lot of old winemakers so he opted for a career shift, and if this vintage is any indication it’s been a very successful decision. The wine had hints of spicy black plum on the nose, with smooth, grippy tannins bringing together the palate of blackcurrant, mocha and spices.
Our last wine of the flight was a 2012 vintage from Silver Oak of the Alexander Valley. Using whizz-bang technology for precision farming, measuring sap flow for optimal vine growth, and a new LEED platinum certified winery opening in July, Silver Oak wines wholeheartedly embrace resource efficiency and sustainability. Aged for 24 months in American oak, this Cabernet Sauvignon comes out bold, bright and full of black currant, vanilla, and cocoa characters.
Alexander Stone is currently studying an MSc in Wine Business at the Burgundy School of Business before planning to seek a position in the marketing sector of the wine industry. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/alexander-james-stone/