22 Jul 2017 / 11:07

Vinexpo. The nineteenth edition of Bordeaux wine and spirits festival

The nineteenth edition of Vinexpo was memorable for the heat wave that enveloped it. Bordeaux closed the season of international fairs hosting, for the first time, the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri event, the last stop on a long cycle of tastings.

Vinexpo. The nineteenth edition of Bordeaux wine and spirits festival

The nineteenth edition of Vinexpo was memorable for the heat wave that enveloped it. Bordeaux closed the season of international fairs hosting, for the first time, the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri event, the last stop on a long cycle of tastings.

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

The tour had started in Seoul at the end of October, 2016. Two thousand three hundred exhibitors came to the banks of the Garonne from forty countries, including an unusually massive presence of Italian wineries. From France itself, all the appellations were on hand: French vignerons occupied 47% of the entire exhibition space. While outside the temperature reached 104°F, a dense conference programs focused front and center on the impact of climate change on top quality production – a few weeks after Trump tore up the Paris agreements. Hail, drought, temperature swings: the talk was about the importance of scientific research to encourage plant resilience and maintain the vitality of the soil despite weather that was more unpredictable and extreme than ever. The calendar of high-profile tastings during the four days of the fair was full. We’ll start with those that involved us.

Special Awards and the challenge of Franciacorta

The Special Awards from the Vini d’Italia guide played starring roles on June 19, a format that Gambero Rosso had offered in 12 major cities this tour season. Lorenzo Ruggeri and Marco Sabellico told the story of Italian viticulture through nine wines, nine central themes, ranging from the super velocity of Prosecco to the other face of Primitivo. “These are the whites that we expect from Italy, full of character and pure elegance,” commented Swedish Master of Wine, Madeleine Stenwreth, at the tasting of Verdicchio from the Tenuta di Tavignano. Brazilian journalist Jorge Lucki was bewitched by the Pigato from Bio Vio. “These wines don’t make it to Brazil, but it is only a question of time. It is intense and saline – a pearl.” A few hours later, a unique guided tasting aimed to overturn the view of the longevity of Italian sparkling wines. Mattia Vezzola, enologist at Bellavista, took sixty world experts on a tour of the world of Franciacorta, a journey among old vintages and large formats. The end point was the latest project, the Meraviglioso cuvée, produced only in magnums. “Coming here to stand before an audience of this kind is an honor. The tasting was designed to show the differences among the formats, and the tasters realized that. We have been doing this work since 1987. As the size of the bottles grew, little by little, the speed of the wine’s aging slowed. We saw that in the nine-liter bottle of Vittorio Moretti 2008. All this experience flowed into Meraviglioso. It represents the six most prestigious vintages of the last 25 years, from 1984 to 2002, a symphony of 300 vineyards. There’s nothing like it in the world,” Mattia Vezzola explained with pride. The tasting began with a comparison of the magnum-jeroboam of Vittorio Moretti 2002, a vintage in simply extraordinary shape, then moved on to the magnum-salmanazar of Vittorio Moretti 2008, before closing with Meraviglioso.

Tre Bicchieri and Bordeaux 2016

The next day, June 20, the first Tre Bicchieri event in Bordeaux took place. Fifty-five wineries participated and more than 1000 visitors registered. “It is the Gambero’s first time in Bordeaux. We are happy about this collaboration with Vinexpo, which already worked well in Hong Kong and Tokyo. It is an important step forward for the Italian wine sector,” declared Gambero Rosso president, Paolo Cuccia. Among others, noted enologist Michel Rolland planned to taste all the regions present. “I want to deepen my understanding of Italian whites. Their quality is improving a great deal. And with the Tre Bicchieri tasting, I’m always sure of a high standard,” he commented. In the room next to the Tre Bicchieri, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux presented the 2016 vintage. “The vintage year weather was perfect. The wine combined the warmth and maturity of 2009 with the acidity and tannin of 2010. To me, it was superior to the glorious 2005,” said Mathieu Bordes of Chateau Lagrange in Saint-Julien, one of the key producers along with Comtesse Lalande 2016 of Chateau Pichon Longueville, in Pauillac. The prices of 2016 are already ten percent above those of 2015. The tastings confirmed expectations, except for the whites on the scene.

All in all, these were four intense days, with some traffic problems that we have learned are not unique to Vinitaly. The hot weather meant that the next edition, the twentieth, should be held somewhat earlier. We closed with a last-minute exchange of bottles between Italian and French producers, Primitivo for Sauternes, Barolo for Bordeaux. Then, tutti a casa.

Interview with Guillaume Deglise, CEO Vinexpo

The wine fair model is changing. What are you working on to adapt the nature of Vinexpo to market challenges?

Vinexpo now is a fair that sees more business going on than ever. The exhibitors want to find up-market buyers and we are doing everything we can to improve the quality of our participants.

This year saw a record number of Italian wineries, 225. How do you explain that?

It’s very important to us to have many Italian producers show up. This is Bordeaux, the most famous city for wine in the world. They come here to be in the game, to compare the quality and style of wines. Buyers from Asia and America don’t only want Bordeaux wines. They want Italy, too, the second largest country in terms of representation. We are happy to work to increase the Italian presence. We want to work with you and for you.

How well did the Vinexpo experience in Asia work? Where will you go next?

Hong Kong proved to be the most important fair in Asia for the wine sector. The next edition will be even more important for that region. Tokyo is a fair for the national market, an interesting, attentive one, where Vinexpo can function as a guide. The news for 2018 is that we will be in New York, the most important wine market in the world.

Italy and France have been eternal competitors. How did this collaboration develop and what can we do together?

Vinexpo is a French company, but Vinexpo works with every country in the world. This year we are celebrating Spain, which is the Country of Honor. Italy had that role in Hong Kong. We want to say to the Italians that you are welcome, that we want to work with and for you, to improve your business in every international market. That’s our mission.

Among the new ideas this year was Wow, World of Organic Wine. How was it received and what were the key themes in this edition?

Organic wine was a very important new theme, and met with unexpected success. So we will continue along this path over the next years. We wanted to emphasize Riesling, with many tastings led by Masters of Wine. And then, there was current news: climate change, Asian markets and Brexit. Remember that the United Kingdom is the second market in the world for wine imports.

How does Vinexpo compare to other fairs in the sector? What do the numbers say?

Vinexpo is a special fair because it brings together business, conferences and first-class tastings. This is the basis of our success. We are not a fair company. We are an all-around wine and spirits firm. We will continue along this path with more services for our exhibitors. As for numbers, again this year, China is the country with the most visitors to Vinexpo, followed by the United States.


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