How Wine Paris offers a welcome alternative but different wine show to ProWein
By Richard Siddle
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 when it returns between February 10-12, 2020, rather than go ahead with its own show that is currently planned in the French capital for January 13-15, 2020. VINEX 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 in Paris - followed by Prowein in March - is another matter.
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 pavillion 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.
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: “I like it. 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, 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. 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."
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. “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.
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.
But what it did achieve in year one was to have all of France’s major inter professional 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. “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.”
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.
The French producers VINEX spoke to were united in getting behind the show and wanting to see it succeed. Those who had been at Vino Vision 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 Rhone. 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, said: “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 group 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 Vino Vision off the ground he was clearly pleased to see that show evolve into the potential that Wine Paris now has.
Another key goal for Wine Paris was to ensure at least 30% to 35% of its visitors are from outside France, said Ferranti. It claims to have achieved 30% in its first year, and included some buyers from far afield as China, Japan and South Korea. “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, explained Guillaume Gaboritl, head of marketing and digital at Comexposium.
“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 said.
There were plenty of producers, buyers and visitors that would agree with that statement this week in Paris.