Home > Winedr Blog

Wine Paris and Vinexpo Paris Join Forces

Three years ago a new cool-climate wine fair, Vinovision, sprang into life in Paris. Attendance from the Loire Valley was pretty good, well worth me going.

Since then the fair has expanded considerably, and earlier this year it was joined by ViniSud, making it a much bigger and more impressive event, under the title Wine Paris. Having said that, the presence from the Loire Valley was not, in the second and third editions, quite as strong as it was in year one.

Many exhibitors found they poured a lot more wine at the Salon des Vins de Loire, and understandably they decided to attend that fair in preference.

Next year, however, Wine Paris will be joined by Vinexpo Paris. The dates wil be February 10th – 12th, 2020, and I know I will be attending. And I think it is time for those Loire exhibitors who drifted away from Vinovision/Wine Paris to come back I think. This is going to be a pretty amazing wine fair.

Press release below:

Identical dates and the same venue for a new encounter geared to the needs of the global wine and spirits industry.

Bordeaux, 15 May 2019 – In February 2020, Paris will be the global focal point for wines and spirits as WINE PARIS and VINEXPO PARIS take place concurrently. This shared desire is in response to market demand for the two exhibitions to come together in Paris to create a new, international landmark event at a key time in the buying calendar.
a collective ambition in response to market demand

WINE PARIS and VINEXPO PARIS have chosen to bring together their 2020 exhibitions from 10 to 12 February 2020 at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.

This unprecedented and collective initiative by the two organisers (COMEXPOSIUM and VINEXPO), with the approval of the boards of VINISUD and VINOVISION PARIS, is a response awaited by members of the wine and spirits sector. The announcement aims to give visibility to all the professionals and further discussions will take place in the coming weeks.

This cohesive approach is a chance for producers, trading companies and brands to optimise their resources and benefit from an event with maximum impact. It will unquestionably promote the events’ appeal and act as a magnet for national buyers (wine merchants, Horeca channels, sommeliers, distributors, specialised wholesalers and sales agents) and draw international buyers to the French capital, at a time of the year which is conducive to buying.

It will also consolidate France’s undeniable wine expertise and culture and strengthen its international reputation.

WINE PARIS stems from the convergence of VINISUD and VINOVISION PARIS, of Mediterranean and cool climate wines, promoting their regional identities, their myriad attributes and diversity. The fusion of these two easily identifiable and complementary exhibitions marked the first collective approach by all the founding marketing boards to create the first major international wine business event in Paris.

By creating VINEXPO PARIS, VINEXPO’s ambition was to seize the growth opportunities slated for the global wine and spirits market. This new international business platform in the heart of the French capital will boast new services such as the INFINITE BAR and the LAB for the exhibition’s spirits area. Its inception aligns with one of the strategic development priorities set by VINEXPO’s board of directors, which is to provide expert exhibitions as close as possible to the major markets (Bordeaux, Paris, New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai).

While both exhibitions will continue to encapsulate their own inherent characteristics, holding them simultaneously offers an additional asset that will strengthen France’s position as a major crossroads for engagement and the promotion of all French regions and vineyard sites, as well as international wine regions.

Supraliminal Bordeaux

Have you ever been subliminally influenced?

If you happen to be a psychology graduate you will immediately see the problem in asking and answering that question (for the rest of us, I will explain what this problem is in a moment). Nevertheless, this is a question I asked myself after my recent return from Bordeaux, following this year’s primeurs tastings. Well, truth be told, I did not first ask the question myself. I was prompted to consider it by this post, in which Jamie Goode wrote of a sense of “privileged access” in Bordeaux, and stated that “it is very hard as a visiting journalist or trade buyer not to be at least subliminally influenced by the grandeur of the top properties”.

I will be the first to admit that many aspects of the primeurs are flawed, and the notion that the process of visiting a château can exert inappropriate influence on the taster is a frequently heard and valid criticism. It is easy to come up with a few examples that might support such an argument. A taste of the latest vintage of Château Latour, for instance, with a view from the tasting room over the Latour vineyards and to the Gironde beyond, is perhaps enough to make the heart of any fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pauillac, Bordeaux or just very good red wine take a momentary flutter.

Château Cheval Blanc

Similarly, just down the road at Château Pontet-Canet the signposted route out of the annual tastings changes every year, and as a regular visitor I know that I am about to be walked through whatever new barrel cellar, vat room or stone-built stable has just been completed in the ever-ongoing rebirth of the domaine. It is part of ‘selling’ the domaine, its story, and a message about the quality of its wine. On the other side of the Gironde, I recall my first visit to Château Cheval Blanc after the construction of its cathedral-like cellars and undulatory vats (pictured above) which have the potential, perhaps, to inspire a reverential state of worship. And it would be easy to sell the story of a visit to Petrus, with its printed invitations to a tasting in the domaine’s inner sanctum, as being one of exclusivity.

Is this not the Bordelais trying to subliminally influence the visitor? It has been suggested, erroneously, that it is the case.

The notion that humans can be subliminally influenced dates back to the experiments of James Vicary in 1956, in which he flashed messages on screen during a movie encouraging theatre-goers to “eat popcorn” and “drink coke”. The two phrases each spent only 0.3 microseconds on the screen, too brief to be registered by the conscious mind. And yet the messages seemed to have a result, as sales soared, although it is now widely believed these figures were simply invented, and Vicary later retracted his results. Nevertheless, the idea has taken hold, and the notion that we might be subject to subliminal influence when watching television, or visiting the cinema, or indeed visiting a Bordeaux château, persists.

The term ‘subliminal’ has certain connotations. Vicary’s experiment, if it had proved effective and if its results were reproducible (they aren’t), would have opened the door to a new world of marketing, giving unimaginable power to America’s Mad Men and marketers. The term conjures up notions of nefarious deeds, iniquitous politicians planting political messages in the subconscious minds of floating voters, and unscrupulous marketers using mind control, instructing us against our will (and better judgement) to buy and drink Coca Cola. Jamie’s use of the term subliminal paints not only Bordeaux but also its visitors in a similar light. It suggests that the châteaux might not be above using underhand methods to inflate the scores their barrel sample is awarded. It also suggests that the visiting tasters are helpless receivers of this transmitted message, and that we might walk away, swooning, as if the defining characteristic of a Bordeaux reviewer is that they can be trained just as easily as Pavlov trained his dogs.

I have bad news for any marketing agencies who wish to persuade their clients in Bordeaux that a little subliminal marketing might produce a slew of 100-point scores. A successful subliminal marketing strategy simply does not exist; as nobody has ever managed to reproduce the results ‘achieved’ (or should that be fabricated?) by Vicary we know it does not work. What the Bordeaux châteaux are very good at though is supraliminal messaging, and this is what Jamie experienced during his visit to the region, and indeed all of the examples I cited above are supraliminal, not subliminal. Subliminal messaging is, by definition, undetectable by the conscious mind (hence the problem with asking the question “have you ever been subliminally influenced?” – if you were aware of the influence, then it inherently wasn’t subliminal). External stimuli such as a view over a grand vineyard, having cellars to rival the nave of Notre Dame (before the fire, obviously), inducing a feeling of privileged access, whatever, are overtly supraliminal, in that the external influence is obvious, apparent and detectable by the conscious mind.

So what, you might say, the Bordelais are still up to their old tricks. But I would argue this is much more than a semantic difference. Whereas the human mind cannot resist subliminal messaging, because we are not conscious of its existence, supraliminal messaging works but it can easily be rejected, provided you are switched on to it. A classic example for you was the German-French wine-selling experiment conducted in the 1990s (The Influence of In-Store Music on Wine Selections, North AC et al, Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(2):271-276) when a British supermarket found that playing French music increased sales of French wine, and playing German music resulted in German wine outselling French wine. None of the shoppers felt they had been influenced by the music, so you might think this was a subliminal message, but it was not, it was merely that they were not switched on to the supraliminal message they were receiving. The music was readily audible (so inherently supraliminal); anybody who went in with the knowledge the supermarket were trying to influence their decision-making process with music would not be affected by it (or if suitably contrary as I can be at times they might even be pushed in the opposite direction – “play French music at me, would ya”, I might say, as I swipe a bottle of Extra Special Piesporter from the shelves).

A seasoned visitor to Bordeaux knows what that view over the Latour vineyard can do for the soul, and the Cheval Blanc cellars, as wonderful as they are, do not instil a sense of awe when returning to them for the twentieth time. Even if they did, I am very aware of what the intent might be, and find it easy to resist. As a regular visitor to the region I therefore reject any suggestion that I might wander around, in a sense of awe, filled to the eyeballs with supraliminal messages. Yes, there are problems with the primeur system, everything from the veracity and validity of barrel samples to the timing of the releases and the pricing of the wines, but the region’s supraliminal messaging is easily identified, and the most readily rejected. Unless your favoured reviewer happens to be a cathedral-obsessed mutt trained by a Russian physiologist on his first ever visit to Bordeaux, that is. In which case, good luck to you with your 2018 buying decisions.

At the Decanter World Wine Awards

I went to London for the marathon earlier this week. No not that one. I’m talking about the marathon that is the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA). A week (which in this case is a ‘working week’, meaning five days – I know some in the wine trade have a different definition of a ‘working week’) of tasting all of the Loire submissions to the 2019 Awards.

This was the 16th year for the Awards, and I am not sure how many years I have been judging on the Loire panel, but it must be seven or eight years now. I started off just doing a couple of days, at a time when the Loire panel would sit for perhaps three days in total. These days the Loire submissions have increased in number (as have submissions to the Awards in general) and both last year and this year the judging extended across five days. I try to participate for the entire Loire judging, and that is exactly what I did this year. The panel was chaired by Jim Budd (who needs no introduction), while my tasting colleagues were Nigel Wilkinson (once of the RSJ, home of London’s best Loire list, now retired) and Chris Hardy (of Charles Sydney Wines, and now undoubtedly the leading wine trade figure in the Loire Valley). The panel was the same across all five days.

The system at the DWWA, for those unfamiliar with it, is as follows. Wines are served in themed flights, anything from four wines to twelve, the principal themes being variety and appellation, sometimes nuanced by style, vintage or price. So we might have a dozen Muscadets, followed by a dozen Touraine Sauvignons, then a dozen white Sancerres, and so on. The tasters have all the information on appellation, vintage, price, residual sugar, alcohol and so on, but the blinding as to the domaine and cuvée is rigorous; I imagine anybody who attempted to unblind a wine by removing it from its bag, a cardinal sin, would never be invited back. Tasters don’t even get to handle the bottles, as everything is poured for you by the ‘red shirts’ as they are known. Our ‘red shirt’ was Abdel, who was a star.

DWWA 2019

All four panel members work their way through the entire flight, tasting and retasting as they see fit, writing notes, and awarding marks out of 100. Faulty bottles are always replaced during the tasting of the flight, no mean feat considering the number of wines being tasted in any one day and the logistics involved. A few words might be exchanged at this time (especially regarding faulty wines) but otherwise we keep our opinions to ourselves for the moment. Once all four of us have finished, it’s time for the panel chair to review the notes and scores, for discussion, and for the decision on a final score and a medal position.

Any judging system has strengths and weaknesses. One accusation commonly made about the system used here is that it is ‘tasting by committee’, which would I think be a fair accusation if the final score and position were achieved simply by taking an average of the four submitted scores. But of course that isn’t how it works; there is the opportunity for discussion, to advocate for each wine as you see fit, and the process varies from one wine to the next. If all four tasters are in close alignment – awarding scores, for example, of 86, 88, 88, and 89, all in the bronze medal category – then taking an average is not inappropriate (although an individual could still argue for a specific score if they wish). When the marks start to straddle medal categories, for example 86, 88 (both bronze), 90 and 91 (both silver) then the discussion becomes more important. We all revisit the wine, and the supporters of a bronze award may decide they have underscored the wine, and revise their marks upwards, or they may stick to their guns and persuade their colleagues that silver is too generous. And vice versa for the advocates of a silver medal. A lot of effort goes into ensuring each wine is given due consideration, and the right level is found.

If agreement can’t be reached, there are floating super-judges who can also be asked to chip in with an opinion. The super-judge system worked well this year, although sometimes the decision went against me, and sometimes for me. There was one wine on day two where half the panel were rooting for gold, while half (including me) were less eager, and an opinion from a super-judge nudged it over the line. I lost. But then a couple of days later we were in the same position with a different wine, with at least two tasters rooting for gold, and I was holding back, holding my ground, as I didn’t feel the wine was worthy of that merit. The super-judge came down in my favour. Vindicated! However the wines get there, though, all the gold medal winners are tasted again next week, by the super-judges, and can be knocked back down if not deemed worthy. I doubt that will happen with any of the Loire wines; we’re a careful lot!

The Loire did well this year, and while I can’t reveal anything about the result it won’t be giving too much away to say there were a number of really fine wines submitted, and a nice number of gold medals awarded. The success of recent vintages shone through; although there was frost in 2016 and 2017, the region has had several good vintages in a row, up to and including 2018 (most Muscadet and Sauvignon submissions come from the most recent vintage, for obvious reasons). And quality overall was consistent; although I don’t have any figures, I am sure we rejected fewer samples as simply substandard this year. And among the golds, there were some real superstar wines. Sadly, unlike that other more famous marathon, it takes a good few months for the results of this particular competition to be published. I hope it won’t be too long though; I’m looking forward to finding out exactly what theose superstar wines were.