I have just returned home after three days of tasting in Vinovision, the second edition of this cool climate wine salon held in the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, in Paris. It has been an interesting event, and I suspect how successful it was depends on your point of view.
From the point of view of a visiting journalist with a strong interest in the Loire Valley and its wines, I have found the last three days remarkably useful. The Salon de Vins de Loire is never long enough to get around and taste with all the vignerons you would like to see, even when it was three days long. This year (and next year too) it has been pruned to just two days, so having three more days to taste at Vinovision is a real bonus. Secondly, there are some vignerons who exhibit at Vinovision who have never been to the Salon des Vins de Loire, so it is a great opportunity to meet and taste with these people.
The organisation of Vinovision is pretty standard for a salon, in other words the associated website is clunky, I found it impossible to register online and had to email for help, I continued to receive emails reminding me to register when I (eventually) already had, and the website listed some domaines as exhibitors who were in fact never coming (and the names were only removed from the website after the start of the salon). I was also confounded by a couple of vignerons I expected to be there (because they were last year) but who didn’t sign up this year, so I missed tasting with them. That last mistake is clearly my own fault though, and I will just have to chalk it up to experience.
Putting that to one side, I still managed very easily to fill three days of tasting. Well, two and three-quarters, anyway; as usual my tasting progress started to slow midway through the afternoon of day three, as many exhibitors started packing up, and one or two stands were left permanently unmanned, which meant some exhibitors I had hoped to taste with missed out (or maybe they were avoiding me). During my final tasting of day three the vigneron put on his coat halfway though, which I did take as a message. But I tasted a lot, catching up with some significant Loire Valley names such as Henri Bourgeois and Couly-Dutheil, some old favourites such as Domaine du Haut Bourg and Château Gaudrelle, some domaines that have long been on the very periphery of my Loire radar, such as Tinel-Blondelet and Domaines Vinet, and also a handful of domaines I have never tasted with before, such as Jean Tatin in Quincy (although I know his wines quite well), and Domaine de Noiré in Chinon.
So from my point of view, I had three successful days at Vinovision. But let’s not forget this is a trade fair, and the reason the vignerons are there is to meet clients and sell wine. So how much of a success was it from the point of view of a (possibly frosted-out and cash-strapped) Loire Valley vigneron?
Rather like the Salon des Vins de Loire, where most exhibitors reported being busy on day one, but quiet on day two, activity at Vinovision also faded away during the course of the salon. Every vigneron I spoke to had been happy with the number of visitors on the first day, but days two and three were reported as being too quiet. The Salon des Vins de Loire cost €1200 for two days this year, a reduction from the fee in 2017 which was, for the same vigneron, “about €3000” (although it all depends on the size of the stand taken, of course). Vinovision, meanwhile, in 2018 was the same price as last year, also €3000 (again depending on the size of the stand, this is the price for a micro-booth), although as it is an international trade fair exhibitors quality for financial support. All the same, this is an expensive activity. “It’s a lot of money for not many sales”, said one vigneron.
Next year Vinovision will again be three days, and it will have a friend, as Vinisud is moving to Paris on the same dates, the two salons presumably in adjacent halls of the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre (I have no idea how big Vinisud is, by the way). Read the press release on the Vinisud website for more details (in French). Some hope this will enhance visitor numbers, while others are keen to support Vinovision regardless. “We wanted this salon, you can’t expect great success at the start, it is getting better, going up, up, up”, one vigneron told me. “Now that we have it, we just need to build on it”. Some may, however, vote with their feet, marching in the opposite direction. “I don’t know if I will come back next year”, said one of his neighbours.
Presumably we will get some idea of visitor numbers to Vinovision in the next day or two. Last year the organisers claimed 3,300 visitors over three days. Visitors to the Salon des Vins de Loire trended downwards from 2017 to 2018, so it will be interesting to see in which direction visitor numbers to Vinovision is heading.