The theme of this year’s Salon des Vins de Loire was frugality. Last year’s three-day Sunday-Monday-Tuesday salon was cut to just two days this year, Sunday having been pruned (on reflection, not that surprising, it was a very quiet day), presumably slashing costs for all. The press dining room, which usually lays on a lavish lunch with hot food, was reduced to a corner table of sandwiches and a thermos flask. Shocking! Seriously, however, I am not complaining, as I always thought the lunch service was a little over the top, and tended to dive in and out as quickly as possible, to maximise tasting time. And frankly, after the devastating frosts of 2016 and 2017, which hurt many in the region, I am all for reducing overheads.
So how did attendance at the new, streamlined 2018 Salon compare with last year? It’s a bit of a mixed picture, and difficult to interpret, as three days have been reduced to two. Monday felt busy, but most exhibitors I spoke to on Tuesday felt it was too quiet on that day. Significantly, I think, overall visitor numbers are down; last year the organisers claimed “close to 8,500 visitors”, whereas this year there were “more than 7,500 visitors”. So although the place was buzzing on Monday, I suspect this was just the effect of condensing the Salon into two days. That’s a poor result. Having said that, the number of exhibitors at the Salon was up this year, from a low point of 230 last year (down from 400 the year before, and down from the heady days when there were 700+ exhibitors) up to 300 this year, a 30% increase.
So in short there were more exhibitors, and it felt busier (on Monday, anyway), but in fact this year’s Salon saw even fewer visitors than last year. That’s a shame, as there were plenty of great tasting opportunities here, and the region continues to offer both value and quality to discerning wine buyers. With La Levée de la Loire just next-door, providing access to 280 organic and biodynamic domaines, there was still more great wine here than you could taste in a month.
The 33rd Salon is set for February 4th and 5th 2019, so just two days again. First though, we have Vinovision, in Paris next week. It will be interesting to see what trends are established there.