There must have been some nerves behind the scenes when the powers that be opened the doors for the inaugural joint Wine Paris and Vinexpo trade fair in Paris earlier this month. In the end they need not have worried as exhibitors and buyers alike embraced the two shows and gave them their solid approval. Clearly there is a long way to go before this exhibition becomes more than essentially a French wine event with bits and bobs from other counties bolted on, but it’s the corporate power behind Wine Paris/Vinexpo that really makes the future look very exciting…and might eventually get ProWein looking over its shoulder as well.
If the jury was out before the first joint Wine Paris and Vinexpo in the French capital then there are no doubts that this is an event that can only get bigger and more important in the global wine trade fair calendar.
Now February 12-14 2017 probably means nothing to you when it comes to looking back on pivotal dates in the world calendar of wine. But in a few years time we could look back on that time as being a pivotal moment, at least in terms of where in the world the wine industry gathers to do business.
For that was the date that Comexposium, the third largest trade events organiser in the world, running 135 separate shows a year with 3 million visitors, first decided to enter the wine industry by running VinoVision, a show dedicated to cool climate wines, in conjunction with the generic bodies of the Loire, Alsace and Burgundy.
Those who went to that first VinoVision event would certainly not have come away thinking this was going to be an event that was to send shockwaves around the world. A nice, well organised show, yes, that shone the light on regional France and cool climate wines, but you could easily cover it in a day.
Crucially Comexposium, however, clearly liked what it saw and six months later, in October 2017, it started to really show an interest in the wine industry when it went out and acquired the Adhesion Group, owners at the time of Vinisud and the World Bulk Wine Exhibition.
Its decision to move ViniSud up to Paris to run alongside VinoVision in February 2108 made you wander if there was some bigger ideas at play here. For a start the initial 5,000 sqm VinoVision event was increased to 12,000 sqm to accommodate ViniSud and with it exhibitor numbers up from around 500 to nearer 1,200.
Then last year came the inaugural Wine Paris, incorporating VinoVision and ViniSud, which attracted 2,000 exhibitors, 84% of which came from France, and 26,700 visitors, including 30% from outside France.
The pressure was on last week to see how Wine Paris could build on its breakthrough year, particularly now that it had also brought Vinexpo into the fold – the first time the two businesses had worked together since agreeing a joint venture in January to combine and run all its shows together.
How did it go?
Anyone attending this month’s event will have been in no doubt. This was a breakthrough trade show. This is what Comexposium is all about. This is why it has already invested three years in the wine business.
The event was another increase on the year before bringing in 29,280 visitors, versus 26,000 and 2,800 exhibitors, some 200 more than in 2019.
Of course, it was far from perfect. But in terms of setting down a marker for the years ahead and if you are in the business of buying or selling wine from around the world, then put ‘Paris’ and the ‘second week in February’ in your diary.
It’s clearly got a long way to go before the powers that be at Messe Dusseldorf and ProWein start breaking out in a cold sweat, but it would be a safe bet to say Wine Paris/Vinexpo was the first item on the agenda the morning after last week’s Paris show finished.
They would have good reason to be already more than a little concerned. For one major reason. Comexposium.
The Comexposium factor
You don’t run some of the biggest trade shows in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors, rather than tens of thousands who have attended its first few wine events, if you don’t have a much bigger strategy in mind.
It’s also been there and done it before. In Paris. You only have to look at what Comexposium has done in creating Sial, the biggest food show in the world.
It’s more like the Olympics than a trade show. It’s 2018 event claimed to have generated $2.5bn in trade thanks to the 310,000 visitors it attracted from nearly 200 countries and the 7,800 exhibitors who took part across 28 different exhibition sectors.
The fact that drinks and beverage exhibitors, including wine producers, are the second biggest sector involved in Sial makes you also realise that Comexposium isn’t quite as new to the wine industry as we might believe.
If you could place bets on trade fairs in the wine trade, then The Buyer would want to place a big wager on Wine Paris/ Vinexpo (or whatever it ends up being called) moving, within a few years, across Paris to take up the large exhibition halls of Parc des Expositions Paris Nord where Sial has made its home.
First year review
But before we get ahead of ourselves what did Comexposium, Wine Paris and Vinexpo think of their inaugural event?
Pascale Ferranti, director of Wine Paris, said she was “incredibly satisfied” both with the jump in the number of exhibitors from France and how it had also started to bring in more international producers as well.
There were 200 more exhibitors within Wine Paris itself (2,000 to 2,200) which allowed it to take over two halls. Overseas visitors were also up from 30% to 35%.
Rodolphe Lameyse, chief executive of Vinexpo, was certainly playing things down when he described it as “OK” for its first year. “We have to be realistic about our expectations for this first show.”
The pressure was also far more on Vinexpo to get things right as “moving to Paris would be a challenge and how it would be perceived,” he said.
It’s clear from both of them that year one was very much about setting the scene, and making the case for what is about to come.
Or as Lameyse said it had to “tick a number of boxes”. “Is Paris important in terms of accessibility? Yes. Is doing business in February every year what people want? Yes. Our clients happy and want to come back? Yes. Are they going to increase their spend and size of stand? Yes.”
“So overall it has worked. The KPIs have been achieved. The halls have been equally filled. But there are also so many things we want to improve. We will raise the bar against next year and then again and again the years after.”
The overall sense, he added, was that this “can become far bigger than it is now”. It is up to the joint Vinexpo and Wine Paris teams to “work, work, work” to make it happen.
Paris or Dusseldorf or both?
Lameyse said that ultimately, in time, the challenge and opportunity was to create an event that meant at some stage “a choice will have to be made” by producers and buyers about where they want to invest their time and money. Paris in February or Dusseldorf in March.
“That’s the elephant in the room. That’s what our clients are already saying.”
How fast it can achieve will lie in how successfully they are able to bring the strengths of Wine Paris and Vinexpo closer together as part of this joint venture.
The 2021 show will have a new name – with probably Paris in the title (The Buyer’s bet is on Wine Paris Expo) – and far more integration between the two sides.
“It’s new, so it will evolve,” says Ferranti. “The next step is to harmonise both fairs. The message is that as an industry we are stronger together. So we will create one big event that allows the big international brands to have their place at the fair (L’Avenue at Vinexpo Paris) and to integrate the spirits area more. Our job is to improve the signage so that there is more clarity.”
Lameyse said he was particularly pleased how well the Be Spirts part of the Vinexpo show had gone and how quickly it had connected with major brands and key buyers. “We wanted to create a sustainable spirits show. We have shown the potential that is there and we have the chance to build on that. We will talk to the spirits community about what we can do.”
He added: “There are things we can improve on our side and there are things they can do on their side. We need to make sure we deliver from both sides and are focused on delivering that and ready for 2021.”
Which in practical terms, he added, will mean having a more dedicated sales team working from “one rate card, with one marketing team, one PR team that can all get the best out of each other”.
Picking up our conversation in January, he said, having made the case in Paris the opportunity was to now move the debate forward from “doubters to believers” to “believers to trusting in us” to get things right.
“From a personal point of view this was my first real show with Vinexpo in France. I was new and had no time to prepare for the show in Bordeaux last year. Now I feel at ease, people trust me, it makes you life a lot easier.”
What it’s got right
Timing: What they have both succeeded in doing is make Paris and this event a more than credible event for the world of wine to come together and do business in February. Making it, crucially, the first major international meeting place of the year.
Atmosphere: Wine Paris and Vinexpo may have plans to bring the two shows closer together in 2021, but they also succeeded in creating to very different atmospheres for their first show.
Ironically Vinexpo was more like Paris than Wine Paris. There really was a sense of theatre and elegance across the Vinexpo show. Far more so than at its usual Bordeaux event with L’Avenue a particular success. A short row of stands brought together to look like a luxury shopping aisle you might find in Paris itself and home to big names such as Boisset, Advini, Penaflor, .
The feeling walking around the more bustling aisles of Wine Paris was that this was more like the regional France that the many generic bodies were there to represent. In fact it would have not been out of place if they had pulled together trestle tables and had rotating rotisseries machines and a local village band playing away as it had more of a fête feel to proceedings.
The Paris factor
This arguably is the most important plus point for the show. Paris at any time of the year is hard to beat, but in Valentine’s week it’s a great draw for producers and visitors alike.
It also provides the perfect backdrop to showcase the “consumption” as well as the “production” of wine as Ferranti describes it.
“The biggest difference is it takes place in Paris,” she adds. “People can carry on their business outside the show in the city and enjoy the gastronomy we have. That is important for us.”
Logistics and travel: Being one of the key capitals of the world also makes it an easy and relatively cheap place to attend. Be it the network of flights or by rail and Eurostar and the super efficient Metro system.
Whilst you need to book months in advance to stand a chance of getting a room to stay in Dusseldorf and ProWein, and even then usually at big expense, some UK buyers at Wine Paris said they had only decided to attend a few days before and were easily able to find cheap and affordable hotel rooms across the city.
Room for improvement
New World: There were certainly some New World players in and around the event, but you had to go looking for them. It’s going to be a big challenge to get the New World to really wake up to Wine Paris now that they have invested so heavily in ProWein, and it also falls post harvest.
Andreas Clark, chief executive of Wine Australia, had taken the time to check the event out and whilst impressed by his first impressions he was more than cautious about it being able to convince too many producers to move from ProWein, or come to Europe twice in two months – at least yet.
“Prowein is our major European and global show. But I am here to look around,” he said. “Vinexpo Hong Kong is a big show for us. We were country of honour two years ago and that was really important for us. There are so many trade shows around the world and it’s a question of how many can you do.”
Signage: More of a quibble than a major issue but it was harder than usual to work out exactly where each stand due to not enough numbers and pointers. Vinexpo’s signage seemed to have been designed by a Las Vegas casino developer where it was very easy to get in, but very hard to work out how to get out.
What exhibitors said
Juliette Monmousseau, director general, Bouvet Ladubay, Loire.
“It’s great to see all the diversity of the wine industry here and Wine Paris allows each region to show its versatility, its different appellations. It’s good to see how it is split by region which works really well. We came to the first Vino Vision, then when it merged with ViniSud and now Vinexpo this year. It’s also important for the trade to be able to a meeting like this earlier in the year. ProWein is still super important, but it is reaching its maximum capacity. Here wine professionals can come and do their business with French wines and then go to ProWein to cover the New World.”
Pauline Guiset, brand manager, Cellier des Dauphins
“It’s been a very good show for us. What’s important is people will spend an hour with you here and we are seeing very different people to who we would see at ProWein. This is much more dedicated to France. It’s a good opportunity to spend quality time with people as they are less in a rush.”
Christian Holthausen, export and communications director, Champagne AR Lenoble
“There is a real chance here to make this a much bigger if not the biggest wine show in Europe, or at least go up against ProWein. It’s also in Paris, which makes a big difference to everyone. You can just get here so much easily, find a hotel so much cheaper…and it just works.”