But the comparison between 2023 and 2022 shows a tendency but does not take into account the special circumstances. Last year's event took place much later than usual and in the shadow of the pandemic. As in any business, we should also compare the most recent show with the last one before Covid. And there is a big difference.
Messe Düsseldorf, the organizers of ProWein, pointed out that this year they had tightened up the already strict registration process to ensure that exhibitors were faced with a minimum of wasted time. The impression that the fair was less crowded than in the past was also reinforced by the retention of the wide aisles introduced to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. It is likely, too, that the combination of airline and local transport strikes coinciding with the event also took their toll. Finally, there is the still hard-to-quantify factor of a rejuvenated Wine Paris – Vinexpo having already taken place in February.
The existence of this last exhibition has to be taken into account when listening to the French exhibitors in Dusseldorf. Grumbling that the international visitors they had seen in Paris had little reason to spend time on their stands in Dusseldorf, just a few weeks later. This may have been true, but there were far more internationals in Germany than in France.
Eva Jung, of the Bordeaux negociants, Cheval Quancard said that “As a French business, we had a large stand at Wine Paris. The international audience was more present there than last year. Some customers are at both fairs. At Wine Paris, we mainly dealt with the French customer, in order to have more time for the others at ProWein.”
“For us” she continued, “ProWein was very good, we met many customers. The specialized trade, which is important for us, is not coming to Paris. We will definitely be back next year.”
Jan Zorgati of champagne producer Pommery Vranken, which did not exhibit in Paris, took a similar view. “We had many international visitors at our booth, but also the ones we were aiming for as the German/ Austrian subsidiary. The quality was good, we mostly had the decision makers, like CEO’s, and buyers there.” How truly worthwhile participation will have been once they have followed up on those meetings, but for the moment their impression of the fair is that it was “quite good.”
One bonus for Pommery Vranken of being at ProWein was the chance to meet Kylie Minogue. “We were happy to welcome Mrs. Minogue at our booth, and to show her, what our house stands for. What will happen in the future is not foreseeable at this point.”
Opportunities for Italy
Italy was well represented in Dusseldorf, and again exhibitors reported meeting a good range of international visitors.
Anthony Bijleveld of Mezzacorona, said that he had seen potential customers from “Europe, Eastern Europe, Nordics, Dutch, Central Europe, UK, Canadians, Brazilians” though perhaps fewer Asians than he might have wished. Comparing the event to Vinitaly that opens next weekend, he said. “For us, ProWein is very well organized, you can plan your appointments well, most people come on time. This makes is easier to work than at Vinitaly which is much more hectic. Another good thing is, you come here to talk about serious topics."
Mezzacorona will be back next year with the same size stand. However, Messe Dusseldorf has noticed that companies like this have observed that, in Bijleveld’s words, “Unfortunately, there are less people here than before the pandemic”.
And the English speaking countries?
Ryan Pennington of Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington State was “satisfied… the attendance quality and quantity are as they have been in 2019.” He will be exhibiting at ProWein again next year, but “we might go to Wine Paris, maybe on a joint stand in partnership with Oregon Wines. That would definitely be something small, compared to ProWein, just to check out if it’s worth.”
WineGB will also be back in 2024, says Simon Thorpe MW. The English and Welsh wine producers had a larger stand than in 2022 and in what Thorpe described as “a more suitable location in the international hall. “We saw more visitors and the feedback we received about our wines, business and the stand was very positive.”
“In our view, both fairs have a raison d’être, but…”
This confirmation that major exhibitors are planning to return to Dusseldorf will reassure the organizers, but they cannot be complacent. “In our view, both fairs have a raison d’être. However, the fact that ProWein will take place one week earlier next year is difficult. Three weeks between the two fairs is too short. It would be important for us, that this is better coordinated, that the fairs show more consideration for the exhibitors.”