News broke this week that the 2018 Salon des Vins de Loire is to receive a serious pruning. For as long as I have attended the Salon it has always been a three-day fair, but the 2018 edition has been pruned to just two days, Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th of February.
In the broader context of Loire Valley wine, while very disheartening, this news is not that surprising. The fair has been losing exhibitors for several years, the figures tumbling from 400 exhibitors in 2016 to just 230 in 2017. The reasons for this are complex. First, taking a stand at the Salon is very expensive, and exhibitors thus need to see some benefit or return (it is, first and foremost, a working trade fair). Secondly, it is arranged by InterLoire, a vital organisation representing the majority of the Loire Valley (the Pays Nantais, Anjou and Touraine) and yet many Loire vignerons feel the body does not serve them well.
Thirdly, the Loire Valley has had its fair share of crises recently, from hailstorms in Vouvray in 2013, through to damaging frost in 2016, and now even more devastating and more widespread frost in 2017. With less wine to sell, and tighter finances, vignerons naturally see less appeal in attending an expensive trade fair. Fourthly, this year saw the birth of Vinovision, which was held the following week in Paris. I went to Vinovision, and felt that it was fairly quiet compared to the Salon des Vins de Loire, it was much smaller, and many visitors seemed more interested in the small Jura, Champagne and Burgundy sections than the more expansive Loire section. Nevertheless, it is competition.
The 2016 Salon was very quiet on the first day, a Sunday, partly I suspect because (a) many who visited didn’t want to spoil their weekend, and delayed coming until Monday, which was busier, and (b) numerous competing ‘off’ salons are also held over the weekend, e.g. Les Anonymes, Les Pénitentes, La Dive Bouteille in Saumur and the Renaissance tasting in the Grenier and Hôpital Saint Jean. Nevertheless it is Sunday that InterLoire has decided to prune. This is very sad for the Loire Valley as a region, and my only hope is that somehow (perhaps with some less frost-bitten vintages, fingers crossed) InterLoire can in 2019 and 2020 turn around what seems at the moment to be an inevitable and possibly terminal decline.