Being in Paris on February 14 you might imagine would involve lots of romantic walks down by the banks of the Seine, taking in the sights of the love capital of the world. Instead all the walking on this trip was up and down rows of producers that separated Loire, Burgundy, Champange and Beaujolais (and more) producers showing off their wines at the world’s only wine fair dedicated to cool climate wines. Richard Siddle brings back some different memories of a Valentine’s Day trip to Paris.
If you like your wines clean, pure, fresh, packed with minerality, and easy to drink then VinoVision is the place to be. With so much talk about the popularity of cool climate wines it’s great credit to trade event organisers, Comexposium, for having the ambition of holding a three-day show in their honour.
If you are looking for a suitable venue, or host city for a cool climate wine exhibition then Paris in the middle of February sounds about right. Particularly a Paris that had just had its biggest snowfall in decades the week before.
The outdoor temperatures were more in keeping with attending a hot drinks fair, relieving yourself of hats, scarves and coats at the door rather than embark on a wine show that was all about celebrating wines grown at high altitude or in colder conditions.
The long term ambition for VinoVision is for it to be a true international wine fair in terms of the producers and winemakers showing their wines. The first two editions of the fair have, though, been very much about celebrating and showing cool climate wines and regions from France.
Things will certainly move on a pace when from next year it teams up with ViniSud, the just held show dedicated to wines from across the southern half of France, to host a joint fair in Paris in February 2018, now that they are both part of the same events organisation business, Comexposium.
VinoVision does, though, already succeed as a more boutique international trade show and 2018 saw a step up in the number of visitors and buyers from overseas – up to 20% of this year’s figures, according to Chantal de Lamotte Miribel, managing director of Comexposium.
The Buyer spoke to producers who had been able to show their wines to buyers from as far afield as China, Japan and the US and then closer to home across Scandinavia, Germany, and the UK.
“I have seen good quality buyers here and more importers from overseas,” said Pierre Cadiou, commercial sales director for Levron Vincenot in the Loire, who was also at the inaugural show in 2017. “It’s the ideal fair for us to look for more export agents and is much better this year than the first event. We have spoken to a lot of buyers from the US and Canada.”
Pascal Leclaire-Picot of Domaine des Chavoches and Château Meillant said he had noticed a real difference at this year’s show in terms of international buyers. “There are already more here this year, and it will be a lot bigger when it is part of ViniSud,” he said.
Which will be welcome news to Lamotte Miribel who with her team had organised a series of trade meetings with buyers in key cities and countries around the world, particularly in the US and around Europe, over the last year to help promote the show.
That said, she said, with such a strong French presence at the exhibition, it is also important to be able to attract French buyers, with the majority of visitors, she said, coming from within two hours of Paris.
It is also the ideal venue to take advantage of the hugely influential Paris wine market, and attract the retail, wholesaler and distributor buyers all based in and around Paris, which Comexposium estimates has 20% of the country’s hotels, restaurants, 17% of French wine shops, and over 100 Michelin restaurants.
In many ways VinoVision is the ideal-sized show compared to the giants like Prowein or Vinexpo. An event that allows both producers and buyers the right amount of space and time to have quality meetings and tastings without the constant pressure to move on to the next producer.
Its aim is to attract both big and small buyers, and distributors who are equally attracted to what has fast become one of the most on trend wine categories in both the on and off-trades.
Next year’s show will expand from its current 5,000 sqm to 12,000sqm to accommodate VinoVision and with it take exhibitor numbers up from around 500 to nearer 1,200 and potentially attract 20,000 visitors to Paris.
But, crucially, VinoVision and ViniSud will be run as two separate shows sitting alongside each other at the same time. “We hope to attract more international cool climate producers,” said Lamotte Miribel.
VinoVision’s focus certainly won’t change. This is the place to be if you are interested in fresh, easy to drink wines, with increasingly lower alcohol wines that are gaining share on wine lists the world over. “This show is very much in keeping with global trends,” said Lamotte Miribel. “But we also see it as a long term opportunity.”
Which is all good news for many of the classic French wine regions who may not have always marketed their wines as being cool climate, but are certainly aware of the marketing advantage of doing so now.
It was not surprising, therefore, that a large proportion of VinoVision was made up of producers from Alsace, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Champagne, Jura, Lorraine, Savoie and Val de Loire. All classic French wine regions in their own right that don’t necessarily need a label like “cool climate” to sell their wines, but all happy to support Vinovision and remind trade buyers on how on trend their wines are.
Key figures from leading UK distributors, including Conviviality, Matthew Clark, Direct Wines and the Wine Society, were in Paris to see what wines they could pick up, along with regional wholesalers and independent wine merchants.
There was noticeably a strong presence of European sommeliers on many of the panels at the show, all willing to share their experiences on how they are increasingly listing cool climate wines as they have the “freshness, versatility, variety and point of difference” that they are always looking for.
For cool climate, read good acidity, which means wines that are good with food, was the key sommelier message from VinoVision. Whether many of the Loire, Beaujolais and Bourgogne wines ever get paired with anything but a local French dish in their home regions is doubtful, but it is their versatility which is making them increasingly competitive and interesting for a wider range of restaurants and their wine lists.
Wines that stood out
With such a focused show the quality shone through time and again. With some particular gems along the way like Chateau de Parnay and wines made from a parcel of wine that dates back to 1884.
Including its Clos D’Entre Les Murs 2011 which even with a bit of age was still fresh and vibrant and up for trouble. A lovely elegant white wine aged in Austrian oak barrels. Closely followed by its Le Clos Chateau de Parnay made from 40 year old vines.
It was interesting to talk to producers who are yet to find any distribution in the UK despite the quality, and price of their wine. Like Domaine des Chavoches and Château Meillant again offering wines with quality, freshness and elegance, that are available for around €7 wholesale price.
A real stand out were the wines from the Savoie and the mountainous slopes of the Alps. Jean Perrier et Fils, available through Bibendum, has a stunning collection of wines made largely from local indigenous grapes like the white grape varieties, Apremont or Altesse. Gilles Perrier, export manager, said up to half the vineyards in the Savoie area are made up of local grape varieties pointing to Mondeuse, an old local red variety that is now also grown in Argentina and Australia.
The results are wonderfully light, subtle, nuanced white and red wines with whole rock formations of minerality thrown into the mix with the whites. Ideal apparently with a cheese fondue. A real find.
Time and space
What helps VinoVision stand out from many of its trade fair competitors is the space it gives buyers to do their own thing. OK it does not have the scale or size of numbers of a Prowein or Vinexpo, but clearly the time had gone into creating an exhibition floor with separate open pour tasting zones, the Tasting Avenue, that allowed buyers to taste at leisure.
Here the wines has been pre-selected by different interprofessions and trade associations, including the Loire Valley (Interloire), Bourgogne (BIVB), Centre-Loire (BIVC), Alsace, and the Union of Winegrowers in Champagne (SGV).
But what made it particularly useful was each zone was connected to a separate microsite where buyers could then access more information about any of the wines they tasted through their smartphone or tablet.