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Europe's Wine Fairs 2013

With the buying public once again opening its wine wallets, and with the euro more of a bargain that it has been in recent times, 2013 might be an ideal year to consider attending Vinexpo, Vinitaly or one of the other European wine trade fairs.

The key dates are:

ProWein – March 24-26, Düsseldorf
Vinitaly – April 7-10, Verona
London International Wine Fair – May 20-22
Vinexpo – June 16-20, Bordeaux

Vinitaly, the oldest, and Vinexpo, the most-ambitious, are the two primary players in terms of attracting American wine buyers and wine media.

In the past, Vinitaly overlapped the annual Bordeaux barrel tastings – primeurs or en primeur – but last year it changed dates and formats, reducing show days from 5 to 4 and moving its traditional Thursday to Monday run to Sunday through Wednesday.  Stevie Kim, managing director of Vinitaly, says that biodynamic wines are going to be a big feature of this year’s 47th annual event with 122 bio producers attending.

Vinitaly’s strength and weakness is that it’s basically about Italian wines, period.  “Things change slowly in Italy,” Kim says, “but we’re taking baby steps to make it more international.” 

Vinexpo is held ever other year – the odd one – and it was founded in 1981 by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Vinexpo calls itself “the greatest trade exhibition in the world for professionals of the wine and spirits sector” and hosts 50,000 professional visitors, who travel from 135 countries to meet 2,400 exhibitors, representing 45 producer countries.  Unlike Vinitaly, it is strictly for trade, although America retailers and importers have been known to buy tickets for big customers.

At its best, it is a giant bazaar, where even the most popular producers will have quiet times to talk and pour and where special tastings are routine.  Those well-connected will have a dance card of parties to attend at châteaux in the evenings.

ProWein boasts of about 3,700 exhibitors, and London says that 4,000 wine estates participate annually.

To me, an ideal way to get the most out of these fairs as a visitor is to make some appointments in advance to meet with producers, make more once you have arrived, save some time for browsing and letting serendipity happen, and arrange visits with local producers in their wineries before, during or after the fairs.

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