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The Second Coming

Vinexpo is coming to America.  Again.  If you’re in the wine trade, pencil in May 5-6, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York. I plan to be there.

Founded in 1981, Vinexpo quickly became the wine world’s best trade fair, bringing buyers and sellers together and providing a venue for us wine writers to run down article ideas, interview producers and taste a lot of fabulous and exotic wines and spirits.  On odd years, it is held on its home turf – Bordeaux – while being staged since 1998 in Hong Kong in even years.  It expanded to Japan in 2014, also in even years.  This year’s 2017 edition in Bordeaux will be held June 18-21 and is expected to draw 2,300 exhibitors and 48,000 trade visitors.

In recent years, Vinexpo has lost some of its luster as it gained competitors – two in particular – in the trade-show arena.  First was Vinitaly, then ProWein in Germany became the more-recent darling.  People in the trade have strong opinions as to which shows they think are better, often disparaging the others, just as coffee drinkers argue over the merits and demerits of Starbucks versus Dunkin’.

As far as America is concerned, Vinexpo has been here before. Some of us remember Vinexpo’s First Coming, when it tried to establish an American presence in New York in 2002 and then in Chicago in 2004.  I personally thought the New York event worked rather well, but Chicago was a commercial disaster.  There were so few media people there that, when word got out that I wrote for Saveur – which I did at the time – I was swarmed by the PR staff trying to set up breakfast, lunch and dinner interviews and special tastings with their clients.  I was a rock star for two days.

Is it worth the fuss? I think it is, especially for wine buyers.  Where else can you meet hundreds of producers – including many of the best ones – from around the world in one spot over a couple of days?  But for exhibitors, it can be a mixed bag.  Some of them are so ignored that they need to be checked every so often for signs of life.  But exhbitors also control their own destinies, at least in part.  As one large Burgundy producer told me during Vinexpo 2015, “It’s stupid to come here unless you’ve arranged meetings in advance with customers or with people you want to be your customers.”  Every time I passed his booth, he was deep in conversation with someone, so he must have not been stupid.

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