If you are in the business of buying and selling wine then going to international trade shows is very much part of your job. That does not mean we can’t moan about it and let’s face it we do however beautiful or enchanting the city we might be in. So it was a very welcome surprise to go to Wine Paris last week and be met with almost universal approval for this inaugural show which is effectively France – and a few other European power houses – under one roof, with the hope of attracting other countries from the New World once word of the show, where the focus was very much on tasting, discovery and doing business, spreads. Oh and it’s also in Paris. That helps – a lot.
If you did not make it to Wine Paris last week then it would be well worth blocking out the days in February 2020 for its return. Richard Siddle explains why.
Paris in February or Dusseldorf in March? It might be a little early to be claiming Wine Paris is going to be a serious competitor to ProWein in the very near future, but it is not surprising considering the positive reaction from exhibitors and visitors alike that the show’s organisers are feeling bullish and excited about at least its short and medium term future.
But when you consider the organisers of Wine Paris is Comexposium, one of the world’s most accomplished organisers of major food and drink events, covering around 170 consumer and business events across 11 different sectors, then Messe Dusseldorf would do well to keep an eye on what has been going on in Paris over the last week.
In fact so confident is Comexposium about the future of Wine Paris that it could even include an invitation to Vinexpo to partner with its event rather than go ahead with its own show planned in the French capital for January 13-15, 2020. The Buyer is still waiting on a response from Vinexpo on that, but it is clear Wine Paris has stolen a march already and done what it can to make Paris a more than credible alternative as a major international wine fair venue to Dusseldorf. Whether the international trade can handle having two major three days shows within two months in January and February 2020 is another matter.
First show of the year
But it’s clear Wine Paris wants to draw its line in the sand. Show organiser, Pascale Ferranti, wine business unit director for the Adhesion Group, part of Compexposium, said it wants to be seen as the “first international meeting point of the year”. An opportunity to taste the 2018 French and European vintages for the first time and do business.
What made Wine Paris 2019 such an interesting event is that it was big enough to be considered a serious wine fair, but also small enough to make visitors feel relaxed and able to taste and go and discover new producers rather than simply rush from meeting to meeting.
The official figures show there were 2,000 exhibitors, 84% of which came from every region of France, but with also some wines and representatives from 24 other European and northern hemisphere countries. The main ones being Italy, Spain and Portugal who each had their own pavilion areas. The hope is to be able to bring in New World producers – there were none in year one – and make it even more of an international show, and more relevant to global buyers, with 2020 potentially seeing at least 25% of the space going to non-French exhibitors up from 16% in 2019.
The show attracted 26,700 visitors and achieved its goal of bringing in 30% from outside France – 51% of which were split between the US, Belgium, the UK Germany and the Netherlands.
Thumbs up from buyers
Time and again the major buyers I saw at the fair all welcomed the chance to taste and see new wines, and most were doing so on a stand of a producer they currently don’t work with when I saw them.
Simon Jerrome, head of wine buying at Matthew Clark, said it was the size of the show that really appealed to him: “I like it and I have been to their other shows as well. What is good about this event is it gives you the time to look and taste wine and see new producers and is not just back to back meetings with people you are already working with. It’s more relaxed.”
Noel Reid, wine buyer at Robinsons Brewery, the major pub group across the north of the UK, agreed: “I like it a lot. I can see everyone I need to see from France in one place over a couple of days. It’s been very productive and a very good fair for us. I like the fact Vinisud is now part of this bigger fair as Paris is so much easier for us to get to from Manchester. It works well and I can see this being a real alternative to Prowein, which is now too big and too hard to get around. Here you have the time to taste and meet new people and not be just stuck in meetings or getting around.”
Daniel Lambert, founder of Daniel Lambert Wines, said it worked for him as it was a “very nice compact show”. “It’s easy to get to, lots of my suppliers were present and there was good range of new products to try, but not too big to get around.” As there is such a focus on tasting and discovering new producers he urged the organisers to look at providing buyers with a tasting book, listing producers, with room to make notes.
He certainly see it as a real alternative to ProWein. “I don’t like ProWein and hotels in Paris do not cost €700€ per night which is crazy. Why go to Germany if Paris costs less to get to, is easier and less hassle to get round – and the food is better too!”
Tim North, founder of Joie de Vin, said the show worked for him as it was a good combination of small, medium sized players alongside the bigger brands and names across France. “Here it is all about tasting. It has created a good atmosphere for that and the fact you have everyone you want to see from across France.”
Offering something new
Whilst ProWein, by far the biggest and strategically important show in Europe, won’t be losing any sleep over Wine Paris just yet, it would do well to have it very much on its radar. Particularly as the organisers are intent on Wine Paris being seen as a different, but also competitively important trade fair in its own right, said Ferranti.
The key USP of Wine Paris, she said, was that it was a major fair that was also open and relevant to small producers and growers who are still looking for exports and distribution. As well as having the scale to attract big name producers and global names such as Paul Mas and Gerard Bertrand. “We want to welcome the diversity of producers here, from those doing 10,000 bottles a year and are looking for distribution, to big brands and big merchants,” she said. Again another key difference from Prowein.
As it grows, she added, it will always look to keep that connection with the terroir, to producers of all sizes, and the chance to taste and discover new wines. she stressed.
Which also goes back to how Wine Paris was created as it is effectively two shows in one: VinoVision, that launched two years ago as a celebration of mainly French cool climate wines; and the more established ViniSud that up to now has always held its own show in the heartland of the Languedoc in Montpellier.
But when Comexposioum bought Vinisud two years ago, the intention was to always use it as an opportunity to create its own international wine fair, based in Paris. An event that brought the whole of France together, but could also attract other major wine countries around the world, says Guillaume Gaborit, head of marketing and digital at Comexposium.
This year’s show saw senior figures from key countries like Laura Jewell MW, head of EMEA for Wine Australia and Anita Jackson, UK head of Wines of Chile on fact finding trips to see what would work for their respective producers. It will be a tough call for them to convince their producers who have made such a success of ProwWein to make the trip to Europe twice in three months in and around their harvest. But there could well be ways in which local distributors and agents could be used to market and promote their wines on their behalf if Wine Paris succeeds in widening its reach to the southern hemisphere.
What Wine Paris did achieve in year one was to have all of France’s major interprofessional bodies working tougher – other than CIVB in Bordeaux, although Bordeaux was represented by some individual players such as Bernard Magrez.
Farranti said having the support of the vast majority of the country’s major wine regions was very important as they are the bodies that know what their producers want and can, in turn, help sell the show to their members. “It is the inter professions that have really helped it happen. They have the relationships with the local producers and growers. They know what they want.”
Gaborit agreed: “We really believe in the appeal of that collective approach,” he adds. “We are creating a momentum, getting the support of all the regions was really important.”
This included being able to convince the traditional Vinisud producers to travel to Paris and show their wines there, rather than have the world of wine to come to them. Gaborit says it was vital it had their support from day one and it was very open about its plans when they were negotiating to buy the show. “We had already discussed the idea of going to Paris,” he added.
The French producers The Buyer spoke to were united in getting behind the show and wanting to see it succeed. Those who had been at VinoVision were pleased to see how it had progressed and believe there is more to come.
“I like the show’s mentality, there is more space and less rush here,” said Guy Sarton du Jonchay, head of winemaking at Vidal Fleury in the Rhône. But he would be keen to see more international exhibitors. “I am not sure it can only work for French producers if we are to attract more international buyers,” he added.
Laurent Delaunay, president of Burgundy negotiant Badet Clément, was particularly excited about the show’s potential and hopes it can succeed. “It’s a very good start and has the perfect formula to succeed. So I hope it can last. It is also good to be in Paris and we would like it to be here every year. I think there is space in Europe to have two big trade shows a year.”
Bernard Jacob, director general of the Orchidées Maison de Vin group, formerly Ackerman, in the Loire, felt Wine Paris was already on the way to being able to “compete with Vinexpo” and that it had seen a “good balance” of international visitors. As one of the companies that helped get VinoVision off the ground he was clearly pleased to see that show evolve into the potential that Wine Paris now has.
There was very much a sense from producers in the north of France that they see the more independent location of Paris as being a particularly positive move for a major wine trade show.
Another key goal for Wine Paris will be to ensure in future years at least 30% to 35% of its visitors are from outside France, said Ferranti. The official figures will show how many were present at this year’s event, but she said the team was pleased to see so many buyers from far afield at the show including China, Japan, South Korea and the US. “We have been surprised by how many Chinese buyers we have see here. It’s a good start,” said Ferranti.
Prior to Wine Paris Comexposium also hosted its World Wine Meetings event in Paris which hand selected key buyers from around the world to take part in a weekend of one to one meetings with producers looking for global distribution. This alone attracted around 120 global buyers with up to 90% staying on to attend Wine Paris.
Although Wine Paris is keen to grow and attract more countries it does not want to become so large that it is not easy to manage and visit, explains Gaborit.
“Having two halls is good. Maybe we can go to a third but we want to keep it a human size where the emphasis is on doing business and being professional,” he says.
There were plenty of producers, buyers and visitors that would agree with that statement last week in Paris.
- Wine Paris 2020 will be held between February 10-12 at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.
- This is an adapted and extended version of an article that first appeared on VINEX, the bulk and bottle wine trading site.