What a difference a year makes. Back in 2019, Wine Paris was a very promising regional wine fair, that couldn’t quite admit to itself that it had international ambitions. This year, it looked very much like the start of something big.
Wine Paris was the offspring of Vinisud, the Montpellier fair for wines from the Mediterranean, and VinoVision, for cool climate French wines. The fairs joined forces so they could make a greater impact and the result was an event that was on track to be the French version of Vinitaly – a vibrant, crowded space, where buyers could make interesting discoveries. Wine Paris also set out to champion the small producers who normally get lost at big trade fairs.
The response last year was uniformly positive, with exhibitors telling Meininger’s that they were seeing high quality visitors. The only threat on the horizon was the new Vinexpo Paris, scheduled for January 2020, one month before the second Wine Paris.
And then came Vinexpo Bordeaux 2019, where the biggest thing on show was the open spaces and empty car parks. Thrown into crisis, Vinexpo went into talks with Comexposion, the organisers of Wine Paris and came out with a deal – both shows would take place together. Not only would Vinexpo’s big business ethos be the perfect complement to Wine Paris’ artisanal vibe, but Rodolphe Lameyse, Vinexpo’s CEO, told The Drinks Business that he wanted the new fair to go head to head with Germany’s ProWein.
What the Paris event has going for it is, of course, Paris. What buyer wouldn’t prefer to go to Paris than Düsseldorf? But what ProWein has got going for it is impeccable German organisation. So how did the new joint fair work out in practice? Should ProWein be worried?
A crowded event
Wine Paris/Vinexpo Paris was crowded and exhibitors told Meininger’s they were happy with the calibre and quality of the visitors they were getting.
This year there were a greater number of interesting seminars, side events and tastings on offer, all of which were packed. Moët Hennessy went so far as to create an Instagrammable space, in which they ran two days of seminars on sustainability, pulling in international experts to speak alongside their own viticulturists and winemakers. Every session was full.
While the majority of exhibitors were French, there were also contingents from other European countries, though very few from the New World. One who came was Argentina’s Grupo Peñaflor, one of the world’s largest wine companies. Javier Brea, marketing manager of the international division, said the company felt Vinexpo Paris was the right place to show their super premium portfolio, which requires more time and attention to present than is generally available at ProWein.
Andreas Clark, the CEO of Wine Australia, however, said that Australians got so much business done at ProWein and there were now so many fairs going on around the world, that he didn’t believe a new show was necessary. He had, however, made the effort to travel to see it, and added he would keep an eye on it.
Pluses and minuses
At the end of the three-day fair, the CEOs of both Wine Paris and Vinexpo Paris reportedly announced that they intend to work even more closely in future. If so, there are a few glitches they need to fix.
One is that having two separate fairs running at the same time is, well, confusing. A visitor seeking a Champagne, for example, had to navigate the Wine Paris Champagne aisle, and then the Vinexpo Paris Champagne aisle, in a different building.
Not all of the organisation was perfect – most of the staff had limited English, and there were few places to drop off coats and bags, leading to extremely long queues. On the upside, however, the pop-up restaurants were cheaper than the ones at Vinexpo Bordeaux, and the quality of food was generally excellent, plus there were plenty of places to hold meetings. And, of course, the fair is in Paris, an almost unbeatable proposition.
In conclusion, if the new fair is serious about its ambitions to take on ProWein, it has potential, but still has plenty of work to do. If, on the other hand, it decides to be the French version of Vinitaly, then there will be nothing to stop it.
Felicity Carter attended Wine Paris/Vinexpo Paris as a guest of Wine Paris.
This article is from Issue 1, 2020 of Meininger's Wine Business International, available by subscription in print or online.