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Hints to InterLoire on the 2012 Salon

François Chidaine’s recent resignation from the InterLoire executive, reported here and here, was very telling. Chidaine runs what is undoubtedly one of the Loire’s leading domaines, and his quality-orientated focus is vital if the Loire is to receive the attention and trade it deserves. His criticisms of InterLoire clearly indicate that they have a very different focus; their objectives are not clear, they lack ambition, funds are misspent on pointless exercises such as Touraine primeur and – most pointedly in view of my current situation – the Salon des Vins de Loire comes in for some particular criticism. This, he says, is a “bureaucratic machine” which “doesn’t deliver value for money” and, “if it does not evolve, it will disappear”.

I hope you will excuse me hanging onto Chidaine’s coat-tails but I’m going to weigh in behind him. I have no strong knowledge of Touraine primeur (other than one from Henri Marionnet which is often pretty good, but it is not really a market that a regional body should by piling into I think) but I have plenty of experience of the Salon by now. Considering this is an international showcase for the Loire’s wines, there is plenty wrong with the Salon. Here are four InterLoire/Salon problems that need addressing, and some suggestions:

1. Work for the good of the Loire overall. Around the Salon a programme of ‘off-events’ has built up. The Renaissance tasting (Nicolas Joly and biodynamic domaines) in Angers is the best known, La Dive Bouteille at Château de Brézé another, also this year a Loire Bio Salon and ‘Puzelat & Friends’ (which sounds more like a variety television show than a tasting but wil no doubt feature the wines of Thierry Puzelat and his biodynamic peers).

Last year the Salon was moved forward one day, Sunday-Tuesday, directly clashing with off-events. You aren’t permitted to leave your stand at the Salon unmanned, therefore vignerons were forced to choose one event over the other, or rope in friends to man their stand.

This year the Salon has been moved back, putting a whole week between the off-events (which kick off January 29th) and the Salon (startng February 6th). If this was competitive business, you could understand the tactics, but InterLoire is supposed to be helping, not hindering.

As a result this year visitors have to choose between the two tasting opportunities, or fork out for a long stay in Angers, or make two separate trips. Alice Feiring told me she is doing the off-events, not the Salon. I’m doing the Salon, not the off-events. Visitor numbers may well be down.

Get your timetable sorted InterLoire. Work in advance with your wine colleagues, even if they are not InterLoire members.

2. As well as working more closely with the off-events, be more inclusive with non-members. Some top domaines aren’t members; no Foucault, no Foreau. Is this a fait accompli? Or could a new approach change this situation? Think: what could you do to involve these domaines?

3. Sort out your support for visitors. I’m happy to travel to the Salon with no real support at all and have done so every year up until now. I have had one night in a hotel paid for each year (although this year I believe I may get more support – which I shan’t turn down!), nothing more up until this year. But the support you do offer is useless. This includes:

(a) a discount code for Air France…that is only valid if you fly into Nantes airport. I suspect this is useless for most visitors; it is certainly no use to me, as my regular route is Edinburgh to Paris. Why not have a code that I could use to fly into Paris? How many Salon visitors will fly into Nantes? Why be so selective?

(b) the offer of a paper SNCF rail travel voucher, to be handed over when buying at the counter; seriously, how many of those travelling to the Salon do you think might turn up and buy their tickets on the day? As I suspect is the case with most visitors, I book my tickets online months in advance. Why would I want a voucher to get money off an expensive buy-on-the-day ticket?

4. Sort out your website. Seriously, it’s now one week to the 2012 Salon. Why, when I look at the website for this hugely important tasting fair, do I see:

(a) scrolling news items with the generic “Lorem ipsum dolor…” text because you have launched an unfinished website?

(b) a floor plan for the 2011 fair?

(c) a list of exhibitors for the 2011 fair?

(d) a list of “Prepare your visit” links which lead to a page stating:

This page is empty. There is no content actually published here. Probably an update ist [sic] acitvated [sic]. Please try again in a few moments“?

(e) blank photo and video sections?

(f) Dead, greyed-out links to social media sites – hover the cursor over the top to be helpfully informed “We’re working on it!”?

I’m sorry, but you’re not “working on it” quite hard enough.

4 Responses to “Hints to InterLoire on the 2012 Salon”

  1. Excellent Chris. Another question why has no UK national columnist been persuaded to attend the Salon for at least 10 years and quite probably longer. They surely can’t be that picky!

  2. Quite Jim. I don’t see how serious wine journalists can persistently choose to overlook this fair which captures the majority of wines of quality coming out of this very significant region, while at other times dozens of said journo’s are drooling over Burgundy samples of which there are maybe only 1 or 2 barrels produced, are available to only the lucky few, and which might cost hundreds of pounds/euros/dollars per bottle. There’s something here that just doesn’t add up….

  3. I agree with your comments – the website is a complete failure. I’ll be working at the Salon this year for a Touraine producer and an English journalist friend asked me which stand I would be on. Of course I thought – I’ll check out the floor plan on the website as I haven’t got the info yet – fat chance.
    I’d like to add one other criticism – the quality of the ‘Master Classes’ in English. I am quite capable of attending the French ones but out of interest have been to look in on the English presentations. The first year was a cheese and wine pairing and last year a ‘detailed’ look at the expression of Sauvignon Blanc on different terroirs. The presentations in English were shambolic and those presenting them incapable of doing so. It was nothing short of embarrassing. Why don’t they employ someone who is a native speaker to do it for them or use someone who is capable of doing the job? On both occasions there was general talk around me of how dreadful they were and what a waste of time it was. An opportunity to give some additional information to those interested completely lost.

  4. Thanks Cathy. It is really disappointing to hear of yet another less-than-adequate aspect of the Salon. I’ve never been to a masterclass and so was unaware of their poor quality.

    Maybe I should offer to do one…. :-)