Verona in April? London in May? Bordeaux in June? Or all three?
For those of us in the wine trade, attending Vinitaly, the London Wine Fair or Vinexpo at least once or twice in our careers is like a bucket-list trip to a holy shrine. It’s there that new regions and new producers are seeking distribution deals and orders. Importers large and small are vetting possible additions to their portfolios. Established producers are looking for new customers and finding ways to keep existing ones happy. Restaurateurs and sommeliers are anxious to find out what’s new for their wine lists. Writers are nosing around for trends and article ideas.
Wine fairs are where we all meet colleagues and competitors and make new contacts. By the last day of a fair, everyone is out of business cards and so exhausted by massive wine drinking, professionally and socially, that we relax on the flight back with a beer and a Bloody Mary.
This will be the 45th iteration of Vinitaly, and, while other countries may exhibit, the emphasis is always on the bounty of Italian wines and foods. Its dates, April 7-11 this year, overlap the ending of Primeurs (the Bordeaux barrel tastings – April 4-8), so many people go from one to the other as a trans-Atlantic twofer. Like Vinexpo, Vinitaly has made itself into more than a Verona-based fair, as it has year-around activities and regular road shows to the U.S. and elsewhere.
I’ve not yet attended the London fair, now in its 31st year, but I did have a chance recently to chat with fair director James Murray and marketing director Will Broadfoot. “The London Fair is a level playing field for all producing regions from all countries,” Murray said. “The other fairs have so much domestic production. Ours is balanced between old world and new world wines, and we have a global audience.” This year’s dates are May 17-19.
What the London fair lacks in nearby wine estates to visit, as we do in Italy and France, it makes up for it with the city itself – London being more cosmopolitan than either Verona or Bordeaux. Plus, everyone in Merry Olde will still be giddy this year in the afterglow of the royal wedding. Another plus is London is only a five-hour hop across the Atlantic.
My personal favorite among the fairs is Vinexpo, which pops up in Bordeaux city every odd year. Vinexpo allows me to visit producers in the region as well as attend the fair, and the Bordelais, once a somewhat insular lot, have really learned how to throw dinner parties with good mixes of guests. This year, Vinexpo celebrates its 30th birthday on June 19-23.
“We expect to have 50,000 visitors from 140 countries,” says founder and director Robert Beynat, “as well as 2,400 exhibitors from 45 counties.”
Robert, please reserve a Riedel or two for me.