»Strategic gateway to the world market«

Despite current concerns of a rise in the number of Covid cases and deaths in many countries, the wine industry is preparing itself for a return to the rhythm of international trade fairs. The first of these will be Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris at the beginning of the year. We took the opportunity to put a few tough questions to Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO of the event.

Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris / Credit: Jean-Bernard Nadeau
Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris / Credit: Jean-Bernard Nadeau

Isn’t ‘Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris’ a cumbersome name? What do you really expect people to call this event?
Vinexposium, bringing together Vinexpo and Comexposium’s wine division to form the biggest trade exhibition operator in the wine and spirits industry, was only created in August 2020. Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris is the flagship event and is based in Paris. Keeping a name which links to that legacy is a nod to both our origins and our ambition and is the best way to ensure exhibitors’ and visitors’ recognition. For now, it looks like this name has been well adopted by our target audience and is not an issue.
 

Being the first event of the year is an advantage, but Covid hasn’t gone away and February may still see restrictions of various kinds. How are you handling that aspect?
Indeed, COVID is still a threat and, although I am no epidemiologist, might be a concern for a long time. Therefore, we have put in place special measures with the support of the French government. Proof of vaccination or negative test will be compulsory to enter the exhibition as it is to enter on-trade venues in Paris. It might sound a bit daunting for some, but this is the only way to guarantee everyone’s safety in February.
 

Is Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris a French fair with a single hall of non-French exhibitors? Or a truly international fair that is hosted in France. The international exhibitors are in Hall 5. Halls 3, 4 and 6 all seem to be French-focused. Is that correct? How big are the respective halls. Which other countries have the largest space in Hall 5? Which are not coming?
Ah, that’s one way of looking at the trade event in Paris. First things first. Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris is only happening for the second time in 2022 and having more than 15% of the show dedicated to international exhibitors is quite an achievement. 
Second, remember that France is generally the second or third wine supplier in volume in most markets. It is therefore logical that the French offer should be the most comprehensive and the one occupying the most space. 
Dedicating 15% of the total floor space for international exhibitors demonstrates not only the dynamism of those international wine producers who’ve chosen to be represented in Paris but also our willingness to give them a big share of voice. The fact that Gaja, Flechas de Los Andes, Garcia Carrion, Hammeken Cellars, Wines of Lebanon, Wines of Germany, the Italian Trade Agency, and many more will be exhibiting at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris is proof of the success of this joint approach. We could have done more if some countries, such as Australia, had been able to have a physical presence in 2022. 
But already, we’ll have 30 countries represented in Paris making Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris very much an international event.
 

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The Spirits area is 20% bigger than 2020. How has the wine area changed?
First of all the next edition will have a much more harmonious and holistic approach now that we are one exhibition and not two brought together. The guiding principle of Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris is to offer visitors an entry point by wine region. The French wine regions will definitely provide a more exhaustive offer than ever. And on the international side, 30 international wine growing countries will be there compared to 20 in 2020. 

The Spirits area has grown by 20% which illustrates the dynamism of this market. But wine is growing too. We have an increase of 17% of the show size in total, driven not only by French products but international ones as well as discussed earlier. And this in a context of COVID still restricting international travels. Not bad I think!
 

The concept of the Nouvelle Vague young producers in Hall 3 is refreshing. But 40 of them is not a very large number. How were they chosen?
We chose to welcome a limited number of producers meeting the criteria: less than 5 years in the industry; 3rd vintage at the most and no more than 2 previous attendances at the show for winegrowers; production below 50,000 bottles. This relatively small number keeps the Nouvelle Vague area on a human scale, in line with its concept.
 

How important are the conference sessions? How many will you be running?
As of today, we haven’t completely finalised the programme of conferences, but expect a packed agenda covering all the hot topics of the moment and, as usual offering many masterclasses. To quote just a few: Tre Bicchieri tasting, The IWSR conference, Vinexpo Challenge, Battle pairing by the World’s 5 Best ASI Sommeliers… as well as masterclasses on Austrian wines, Prosecco, Alsace wines, Loire Valley wines, Fine wines of Languedoc, Champagne…
 

You are expecting 25,000 visitors, of whom 30% are ‘international. For anyone wanting to export globally, 8-or 9,000 non-French buyers may not seem very many. How do these international visitor numbers compare to the Vinexpo Bordeaux events of the past, and Vinexpo fairs in Hong Kong and elsewhere? 
Do you know the French expression, ‘comparison is no reason’? We are dealing with very different events and very different markets. And different eras! We have to deal with the post COVID world in which some visitors will not travel from the end of the world. What a game changer COVID has been! We are not chasing crowds of visitors for the sake of numbers but focussing on the relevant buyers that matter for our exhibitors and will bring them a good return on investment. That’s been my brief to our marketing team!
 

The London Wine Fair is a smaller event than it was in the past. Do you expect your event to benefit from the Brexit effect?
Brexit, as you well know, was not a good thing for the wine and spirits industry. Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris 2022 will welcome visitors from all over the world, Covid restrictions permitting, but our British friends will be especially welcome of course.
 

How will your Club Program ensure that the top buyers attend?
The Club Program has been running successfully for many years. We offer many exclusive benefits to those that meet the criteria, and we are confident it will be successful again in 2022! 
It targets importers who purchase more than 500,000 bottles a year or who are in the top 10 importers/buyers in their own market.

Prowein benefits from being in the heart of a big import market that is surrounded by other countries that are targets for exporters. Paris, like Verona, is situated in a country that is focused on exports. This is obviously an advantage in attracting buyers of French wines, but won’t this always be a disadvantage when running an international fair?
Paris is a top European capital with the best international transport connections and great hotel capacity. The best offer to business tourism in the world! And Paris is already hosting large scale successful international shows. I think the industry will quickly understand where the best value for money is and Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris 2022 will be soon be the world top event for the Wine and Spirit industry.

When Vinexpo HK was launched, it was very much the kid brother. Today, as the Asian market grows, over time, do you see it catching up with the Paris event.

Asia and South East Asia areas are very important markets for wine and spirits. Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris is the strategic gateway to the world market. I see the two events evolving in a different way and I believe the depth of the Paris offer will remain unmatched. 

 

Credit: Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris

 

It is interesting that the US event is Vinexpo America and Drinks America. Given the global growth in RTDs predicted by IWSR, how much space is being devoted in Paris to this broader range of alcoholic beverages?
Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris 2022 is mostly focusing on traditional wine and spirits while keeping an eye on growing world trends. We’ll have some RTDs in Paris of course, even though they are bigger in North America. The RTDs and Hard Seltzers are developing fast in the US but are still niche in Europe. I think this is definitely the advantage of our events offer that we reflect the differences of maturity from one region to another in terms of products present on the show floor.

Other fairs have sections dedicated to organic/sustainable wines. What is happening in Paris? 
Organic/sustainable wines have an essential role to play going forwards and we are giving them as much prominence as we can. We’ll have a relevant offer of organic/sustainable wines and spirits at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris. We also are preparing something big that we’ll reveal in the coming weeks.

Your WBWE event in November has a heavy focus on alternative packaging, especially cans. How big a part of the Paris event will packaging play?
WBWE has indeed a heavy focus on alternative packaging. We aim to create shows with distinct personalities and the idea isn’t therefore to replicate WBWE in Paris. But alternative packaging will be on offer and will be discussed during our Wine Talks.

All exhibitions now have their own apps to help visitors navigate and plan visits and meetings. Will your event have anything new in this respect? 
We have developed and rolled out our Connect solution already. This portal aims to be the LinkedIn of the wine industry. Even though it will have specific content available during our physical events it is not intended to be used only for a couple of days only. I don’t believe in this. I believe in 365 days solutions helping industry stakeholders to further improve their visibility, learn, share and partner with industry professional. Looking at the number of wineries and buyers already using the portal, it looks like we’re answering the industry’s need.

After COP26, one has to ask whether running 9 big events globally and expecting exhibitors and visitors to travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres to exhibit and/or attend makes environmental sense?
The carbon footprint of travelling is indeed a concern and the Vinexposium group has long established CSR targets to reduce its environmental impact. Obviously this is something that is meant to be constantly improved. Two years ago, our events were granted the ISO 20121 certification for sustainability.
 
Mark Zuckerberg believes we will all soon be living in the virtual metaverse that saves us from needing to travel. How are you responding to the challenges of online and virtual events.

We do not view online and virtual events as competitors but as a complement to our offer. This is why we created Vinexposium Connect. And what the last 18 months have told us is also that nothing beats events in real life when it comes to trading wines and creating proper relationships with trading partners. Never forget wine is a very physical product… explain to me how you believe that you can replace smell and taste through virtual… goggles or glasses 

What is Vinexposium Connect?
Vinexposium Connect is the new digital portal dedicated to the global wine & spirits worldwide community with a wide range of content. We view it as very much part of the Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris offer. It will help facilitate business during the event as well as allowing buyers and producers to remain connected throughout the year. 

How environmentally-friendly can you make the events themselves?
Like mentioned previously, we have CSR targets to reduce the environmental impact of our events, and obviously this is something that is meant to be constantly improved. Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris is labelled ISO20121 which is a CSR ISO.

Paris is a much more attractive destination than Dusseldorf, and it lacks the distractions of the chateaux of Bordeaux. What events will be happening off-site? 
We will have a full programme of off-site events which will be announced in January. We will partner with 100 restaurants and bars to illustrate the incredible diversity of Paris and ensure our guests have a great time.

 

Thank you for the interview!

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