Vinexpo 2013: Bordeaux’s Global Wine Fair
by David Lincoln Ross
Amid steady rains, the rare rainbow or two and cool temperatures across lush vineyards and celebrated chateaus from Margaux to Pomerol, Vinexpo 2013 attracted nearly 50,000 visitors to attend the bi-annual trade show in Bordeaux, France.
From the six continents of the globe, merchants, marketers, importers and exporters gathered this past June in the world’s capitol of wine to buy, sell, trade and taste both classic brands as well as newly launched wines, spirits, brandies and liqueurs.
Set against a gradually improving global economic picture this year, the mood at Vinexpo was cautiously upbeat. Producers, négociants, exporters, importers and retailers all reported business was decidedly better compared to the last Vinexpo held in 2011. If two years ago many Vinexpo exhibitors faced stagnant or declining sales, today in contrast most marketers reported stronger performance and improving financial results.
U.S retailers were also in Bordeaux in large numbers. From strong regional players like Wegman’s from upstate New York to Spec’s in Texas to national merchants like Total Wine and Costco, their top executives and staff were all on the lookout for new products and innovative packaging. For these American retailers it’s all about business whether they were attending fancy dinners at top Médoc chateaux to grabbing a ham-and-cheese baguette sandwich between appointments at the trade show.
John Rydman, President of Houston-based Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods, a 100-store retail powerhouse retailer in Texas, who was joined by four of his top buyers, said: “Vinexpo is important to us due to the number of suppliers we can meet with in a single week. The concentrated timing and placement of everyone is extremely helpful and it comes at a time of year that we have made many decisions since the first of the year and generally have a direction of where we need to go for the rest of the year and which projects we have pushed to the next year.”
Chris Adams, President of Sherry-Lehmann, New York, NY
Noting the heavy investment of time and travel, Chris Adams, President of Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits Merchants of New York City, who attended with partner Shyda Gilmer, said, “It is a big financial commitment–and a commitment of time, too, but I view it as our role as bona fide merchants who really want to be on the ground seeking out new things and reinforcing existing relationships. It’s a way to stay ahead.”
Echoing the sentiments of many negociants in attendance, George Haushalter, Chief Executive Officer of the Compagnie Médocaine des Grands Cru, a leading Bordeaux-based wine negociant, which among its global network of importers partners in the U.S. with Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd., said: “Vinexpo and all its surroundings is a big investment for our company, but worthwhile because we see all our customers from all over the world at our home. So, we save a lot of travel time and budget, we can show them a much broader range of wines, because we have all our range on the site.”
While declining to divulge precise details of his company’s buying commitments reached at the 2013 Vinexpo, Rocco Lombardo, Senior Vice President – Chief Operating Officer Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd., said, “We had an opportunity to taste several line extensions within existing brands and new vintages from our French Estates, and we also have some exciting new projects from the Languedoc upcoming.”
Speaking to the evolving nature of the American demand for recent Bordeaux vintages, Nancy Rugus, Director of the Americas for the Compagnie Médocaine Des Grands Crus, added: “Vinexpo is always successful for us regarding orders and commitments. The feedback from our customers also gives us a better perspective on market needs. With that in mind, I think some of the most interesting wines for Fall and Holiday business will be the good values offered at the petit chateaux level. There are very few 2009’s remaining but lots of wonderful 2010’s and our customers were pleasantly surprised by the quality of 2011’s they tasted in this price range as well.”
All told, then, the 2013 edition of Vienexpo proved to be an invaluable moment where the America’s leading buyers and sellers of wines and spirits could conduct business in optimal commercial conditions, even if it did rain and pour, there were the rainbows, too.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared on page 8 of the September/October 2013 issue of Beverage Dynamics; the author wishes to thank the publication for permission to reprint the report.
David Lincoln Ross – a food, wine, spirits and travel writer based in New York – has attended and reported on five previous Vinexpo events, beginning in 1989. For more information, please log onto: www.davidlincolnross.com