Greetings from Vinexpo! I’m in Bordeaux for only my second visit to this biennial trade fair, having first come in 2009. That was the year Bordeaux was chasing the China market; Asia is much less prominent this year, and in fact the Bordelais are once again wooing Americans. More on that to come.
Just walking through the immense hall at the Parc des Expositions is overwhelming. Within a span of two hours, I was able to whipsaw from Patagonia to Portugal to Champagne and then Austria. I tasted a savory Malbec from Portales del Fin del Mundo, then the exquisite White Stones and White Bones chardonnays of Catena Zapata, from select vine rows high in the Andes foothills of Mendoza.
Minutes later I was sipping a tawny port from Taylor Fladgate vinted in 1863, the year of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, and the year Ford, Royce and Peugeot were born, according to Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s executive director. Then a Champagne tasting – comparing not wines but the glasses they are served in. (For the record, Lanson Gold Label 1995 is delicious in any glass, but more expressive in a white wine glass rather than a traditional Champagne flute.)
After scarfing a sandwich of pata negra jambon on a crusty baguette, I was (in spirit) cruising the Danube tasting the electrifying Grüner Veltliner and Riesling wines of Gobelsburg and Bründlmayer. A few more steps took me back centuries in history to the very beginning of wine and the racy rkatsiteli white and savory saperavi reds from Georgia, fermented in clay amphorae called qvevri.
And just to wrap up the day, I did an espresso tasting with Maximilian Riedel – and even more enlightening, a Coca-Cola tasting. More on that in a future blog post.
Still, there’s a sense of ennui here. Many producers say the buzz and the crowds are thicker at Prowein, the annual fair held in Dusseldorf in March. That seems to be easier for the East European market to reach. And perhaps Vinexpo has diluted its brand by holding its fair in Hong Kong in alternate years (though it has always been every other year in Bordeaux).
But I’ve seen signs that Bordeaux is aware of the competition and is mobilizing — or has mobilized — to respond. This is still be the center of the wine world — albeit a more broad and diverse wine world than ever before — and producers here sense the competition and know they need to adapt to the changing global market. (That realization may not yet be reflected in en primeur pricing for the latest futures market.)
There’s much to learn about and explore here this week at Vinexpo. Stay tuned.