Back to the fair

After a two-year break, the major wine trade fairs are all reopening their doors. How will exhibitors and visitors react?

Dense free tasting will not be an option at this year's ProWein (Photo: Volker Wiciok).
Dense free tasting will not be an option at this year's ProWein (Photo: Volker Wiciok).

As governments and businesses across the world try to come to terms with the current stage of the pandemic, wine professionals are looking at their diaries and considering which events they need to attend, and which might be worth exhibiting at in the future.

This year, many exhibitors will be looking at the major fairs with a rather more analytical attitude than in the past. After two years of running their businesses, often quite profitably without spending, in some cases, possibly hundreds of thousands of euros on participation in a trade fair, they are reasonably asking themselves whether they need to reopen that tap. Might the money be more usefully spent on public tastings, pop-ups, digital marking, influencers, wine tourism or zoom tastings?

Visitors are sure to welcome the chance to catch up with customers, suppliers, friends and colleagues 'in real life' after a long break, but will they also count the environmental as well as the financial cost of the travel and accommodation. How easy will it be for businesses and individuals seeking sustainable credentials to justify making airline journeys in order to spend a few days walking around an exhibition? Maybe they'll make these trips in 2022, but will they be as ready to do so in 2023 and 2024 when sustainability audits become commonplace?

Most traditional exhibitors will almost certainly be present at the 2022 events, for the simple reason that they have already paid to do so. The fair organisers have carried over bookings and payments for the fairs that were cancelled in 2020 and 2021. Their challenge will lie in selling the same space to the same companies in 2023. But some of them too may bring fewer staff to man their stands.

The picture is further complicated by Vinexpo having been transplanted to Paris from Bordeaux and changed its dates, and by Prowein shifting its halls around and adding new ones. And of course all the events now having had to adapt to ongoing health risks.

What’s on?

The first event of the year, the Millésime Bio ‘world organic wine fair’ in Montpellier was due to be held on 24-25th January, but these dates have changed to 28th February-2nd March. A digital event is still taking place on the original dates.

The organisers of Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris have confirmed that their three-day event is opening at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles on 14th February. Sanitary measures will apparently include mandatory Covid passes and face coverings. “Digital access badges (e-badge) will be favoured and an enhanced cleaning process will be used in every area.” As for the fair, there will be a Wine Tech Perspectives area that will apparently “allow attendees to dive deep into the heart of innovation and digitalisation in the industry”, a Be Spirits will section to “honour spirits and mixology” and La Nouvelle Vague to “highlight young winemakers and talents.” It will also almost certainly be a less international event than the Bordeaux one in its heyday.

It will, of course, benefit from being in the French capital which has more obvious visitor-appeal than Dusseldorf where Prowein will once again open its doors, a little later than usual, from the 27-29th March. The organisers of what has grown to be the world’s biggest wine trade fair have opened additional halls and widened all of the aisles. There will be Covid test centres and exhibitors will have to offer special tasting areas on their stands where visitors can remove their masks when sampling. Slightly worrying-sounding ‘ProtAction’ guides will also be patrolling the halls to police sanitory rules. The popular ProWein seminar and tasting forum will not take place this year due to lack of space, but the ProWein app offering with a matchmaking tool and a product database managed via bottle books has been expanded. "We have been focusing on and implementing the topic of digitization at ProWein for years," says Monika Kissing, Senior Manager Press & PR. "The visitors use our offers very successfully - there is still some room for improvement on the part of the exhibitors".

Meininger’s will be present with all of its publications, as well as the medal winners of the MundusVini competition.

Two weeks later Vinitaly will return to the fray after its small-scale ‘special edition’ last year. Covid health measures will be strict here too. Apart from an expanded Bio section, among the innovations are a ‘Micro Mega Wines - Micro Size, Mega Quality’ area ‘dedicated to companies with small productions, from native and international vines, but with a high quality rate’ and organised in collaboration with Italian expert Ian D'Agata.

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