European wine fairs, worth the trip?

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ProWein, Vinexpo, Vinisud... Do you go to these European wine fairs and why? Veteran buyer of Liberty Jennifer Docherty MW talks about her opinion on wine fairs.

Vinexpo stands, credit Decanter
Vinexpo stands, credit Decanter

I visited two French wine fairs in February: one in Angers (Salon des Vins de Loire) and the other, in Montpellier (VINISUD).

Although the Angers wine fair was quieter, it was still useful to attend and meet with existing and potential producers. There is talk however, that the fair will be re-born with other northern French regions such as Champagne and Alsace to create ‘Vini Nord’ to butt against VINISUD so buyers can travel north to south in one trip. While I can see the benefits for long distance travelers, it would nevertheless be hard work, especially for the palate, to taste for a week straight in a fair environment.

The question is should you travel all the way to France or elsewhere in Europe to attend wine fairs, especially when so many fairs have Asian editions, like Prowein and Vinexpo? The answer is yes-if you can afford to. Over the past 12 months I have been to several wine fairs from Fenavin in the small central town of Ciudad Real, Spain to Cape Wine in Cape Town, South Africa. Wine fairs are valuable for providing an informative snapshot of the wine scene in a particular country, as well as highlighting new developments (such as regions, styles and winemakers).

Fairs are also an efficient way to meet with several producers in one setting, rather than having to drive from winery to winery. I am always on the look out for talented young winemakers at the fairs in hopes that they will become the leaders of tomorrow. The best places to find these young winemakers are at the smaller 'off tastings', off site of the main fair because exhibiting at the main fair is usually too expensive. Some of the off-tastings can be even more interesting than the main fair but some research (through social media) is advisable in order to find them.

Another convincing reason to travel is there is often less competition from other buyers from your country and this may help you get in there first with an undiscovered producer. Your willingness to travel also conveys to the producer your seriousness as a potential importer.

As wine fairs offer the visitor a first-hand lesson about the wines of a particular region or country, I believe the experience gained is worth more than the costs incurred.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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