There is only one word to describe VinExpo 2017 – HOT! The weather was hot and the events and after-parties were even hotter. Every day the weather was in the upper 80’s to mid 90’s (31-36° C), and while the expo itself was air conditioned, by the afternoon everyone had the glow of perspiration on them as the expedition hall heated up. Any of the 50,000 visitors who came to Bordeaux and rented AirBnB’s for the week quickly found out that many flats in Bordeaux do not have air conditioning – ouch! Each night, with the sun still in the sky until after 9:30 PM, guests at the famous Bordeaux parties wore their finest, searching for shade, eagerly enjoying unique food, incredible wine, and plenty of fun entertainment.
VinExpo is the Wine and Spirits exposition which holds its primary event in Bordeaux France every other year, around the time of the summer solstice. It is a show which I have never experienced before, and I was determined this year to get there. While the focus of the exposition was naturally weighted towards French wine and spirits, there was global representation from producers in every major wine region of the world, including many of Woodberry Wine and Kindred Vines Import Company’s suppliers.
While at VinExpo, I was able to meet with current suppliers Jean-Paul Dubost and Clementine Baste from Beaujolais producer Domaine Dubost, Vincent Thebaud and the entire Brumont team representing Château Montus and Château Bouscassé, Philippe Gaillard and François Gilbert from Château Gilbert & Gaillard, Thomas Houdayer from Bordeaux co-operative Tutiac, from which we receive Les Jouberts and Galochet, Chablis producer Jean-François Bordet from Domaine Seguinot-Bordet, Damian Sohler from our Alsace supplier Frey Sohler, Martine and Pascal Guilbaud from Loire Valley producer Guilbaud Frères, Laurence Feraud and Didier Luvet from Domaine du Pegau, Yann Clinchard from Vignerons du Mont Ventoux, Massimo Bracco of Costa di Bussia and San Silvestro, and Bordeaux negociant heavy weight famille Sichel, where we receive many stellar Bordeaux and French brands including Pellehaut, Sirius, Argadens, and Château d’Orignac Pineau des Charentes.
I was also able to meet with our new, upcoming supplier Georges Viouroux, who produces incredible malbecs from Cahors. We will be bringing in to Michigan two brands, Gouleyant and Mercues, and I know that they will be very positively received. The wines are outstanding, with a range from entry level to icon status. We are expecting a September launch in the market which will include a market visit from export manager Mickael Alborghetti.
Dozens of other meetings and tastings were had with other prospective wine producers that are being considered for inclusion into the Kindred Vines Import Company and Woodberry Wine portfolios. VinExpo, and other industry trade shows, are an extremely efficient way to build and maintain our supplier relationships by sharing together information that can help build and promote their brands into the US marketplace.
In the evenings, I was fortunate to have been invited to attend some incredible events, many with strong traditions. Over five nights, I attended five different parties at five different Châteaux. Those included a Friday evening kickoff event at Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé A producer Château Pavie where, upon arrival, we were picked up from and driven to the Château in classic cars, and then enjoyed a cocktail reception, dinner, and entertainment overlooking the beautiful vineyards. On Saturday night, I attended the La Jurade de Saint Emilion at Clos Fortet, where the brotherhood began in 1199 and then reconstituted in 1949 with a mission to enhance and protect the reputation of the wines from Saint Emilion throughout the world. The event included a parade of new inductees into the brotherhood and a celebration which included a reception, speeches, dinner, and dancing. Sunday night’s event was held if Pessac-Leognan at Château Pape Clement, where they held an interactive cocktail reception which included an “En Primeurs” tasting of the new vintage in the Château, an Opera singer in the cellars, a tour of the herb garden, and the creation of a “living moss wall” that featured the crest of Château Pape Clement. The reception was followed by a fabulous dinner at the Château.
On Tuesday evening I made the drive with Edouard Braastad to Saint Estephe to attend Feux de la Fête at Phelan Segur, which was a spectacular setting for a cocktail reception on the expansive lawn which overlooks the Gironde River. After the reception, there was an incredible dinner and wines, a bonfire ceremony, and a dessert wine bar featuring more than a dozen Sauternes, including Châteay Y’Quem, Château Guiraud, and Château Doisy. The finale for the week was held Wednesday night following the closing of VinExpo at Château Malartic-Lagraviere in Pessac-Leognan. Over 1500 of the world’s wine professionals celebrated at the Fête de la Fleur, where there was plenty of star power including the Mayor of Bordeaux, the Modigliani Quartet, dinner wines, including magnums of 1996 Château Margaux, Cuban cigars, and a firework show!
On Monday evening, my “night off” from Château parties, I had the great pleasure of dining with François Gilbert and Philippe Gaillard along with export manager Pierre Lemoine at Le Pressoire de l’Argent, Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin starred restaurant in Bordeaux’s downtown Grand Hotel. The restaurant’s name comes from the rare Christof lobster press, which crushes the lobster tableside to secure the broth. It was an extremely memorable dining experience which included great wine, amazing food, terrific people, and a tour of the kitchen with head chef Gilad Peled. What a night!
You defeintely have to bring your “A” game to VinExpo, and you really need to be a person of great stamina to enjoy all the activities and to have productive meetings! VinExpo Boredeaux is a tremendous venue to build relationships with suppliers, global buyers, and peers from all over the world. The bonus of being able to experience the famous Châteaux in such a unique and personal way unquestionably creates an environment unlike any other trade show in the world.
I am very grateful to Victoire Touton, Gwen Lucas, James Sichel, Veronique Dausse, Lionel Labat, and Patrice Lancien for the invitations to their tables during VinExpo, and of course to François Gilbert and Philippe Gaillard for the incredibly dinner Monday evening. The experiences given were truly memorable.
As we know, the wine industry is all about building great relationships, and working hard to earn trust every day with our customers and our suppliers. I am thankful for having met literally hundreds of individuals during this trip to VinExpo, which I am sure will create many great opportunities for all in the future. Merci beaucoup and à bientôt!