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Industry Event: ProWein 2013

Posted on  | June 24, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Trade shows are, if not the lifeblood of an industry, at least vital resuscitators. They provide an under-one-roof opportunity to share wares and ideas. Connections are kindled, deals are made, and the industry as a whole gets a chance to freshen things up.

Vinexpo, Vinitaly and the London Wine Fair have for some time topped the traditional list of international trade shows that move the wine world. Now it’s time to add ProWein to the list—perhaps at the top. Held in late March in Dusseldorf, Germany, Prowein already rivals its peer shows in sheer size, having attracted this year 4,783 exhibitors and 45,000+ visitors from 48 nations. But it’s not scope alone that makes ProWein tick—it’s the organization. The physical setting—a series of connected “halls”—has the effect of making the show remarkably manageable. It also keeps any single sector from seeming dominant, while giving smaller players the sense of a more level playing field.

Think ProWein is all about German wine? This year, the highest number of exhibitors came from Italy, followed by France and Germany. But there were contingents as well from China, England, Brazil, Tunisia and Lebanon. Thematic areas also highlighted organic wines, Champagne and spirits (replete with mixology demos). Expert-led seminars abounded; and dedicated self-pour areas for some regions  enabled efficient tasting. The net result is a trade show that is truly global in feel and practice.

In turn, it is no surprise that many firms choose ProWein to unveil brand new projects. To wit: Spanish sparkling leader Freixenet launched its sweet, fruity Mia Moscato. Trapiche trotted out two brand new Malbec bottlings—Pure (unoaked) and Extravaganza (blended). And Prowein 2013 was the official debut of Miraval Rosé 2012 by Jolie-Pitt et Perrin.

Those were just some of the more conventional launches. Also on tap: an energy drink blended with Champagne; vegan wine; an organic wine spritzer; an alcohol-free RTD cocktail; and a line of charity-driven Spanish wines (Whatever It Takes) featuring artwork by celebrities from George Clooney and Penelope Cruz to Coldplay and David Bowie.

Trends at Every Turn

For sheer trend-watching, ProWein 2013 offered a humbling glimpse into the ever-shifting global market. America, with its notoriously complicated distribution system, is simply not the epicenter of innovation. By default, many of the more dramatic new products are not in the U.S.—which is all the more reason aggressive American importers should be checking ProWein out. At the same time, the progressive wines and spirits on offer at ProWein help cast a spotlight on trends that may be hitting our shores sooner than later. Some particular items that caught my eye:

  • From Portugal, producer Casa Agricola Assis Lobo has created a sort of wine-bar-in-box: Três Lobos is a 1.5L box with three separate inner bags and spouts dispensing Syrah, Cabernet and Castelão.
  • From Sweden, the Znaps line of “surreal” vodkas and RTS cocktails straddle the line between comical and creepy—in a good way. (Incidentally, Znaps is now in the U.S., imported by Medina Brands of California.)
  • A handful of wine labels stood out for their unconventional graphics. Austrian producer Weszeli (imported by Savio Soares Selections of New York) applies topographic style to animal imagery. MILK (“My Intimate Lover’s Kiss”), from South Africa, is a line of varietal and blended wines with a sensual subtext. The tasty Portuguese red table wine dubbed NBNC—“No Branding, No Cry”—features a graffiti look and attitude to match  (the label takes a jab at overaggressive marketing). Already a hit in Scandinavia, it’s made by Vidigal, some of whose wines are currently imported by Frederick Wildman; here’s to hoping NBNC gets here, too.
  • Sparkling wines in the U.S. tend to look homogenous. Cava Licious, from Spain, breaks the mold, adding artsy labels, offbeat names and a charity tie-in (water.org). And from Italy, the sleek packaging and reduced alcohol of brands 9.5 and Epsilon may be ahead the curve.
  • German producers seem to have mastered the modern art of collaboration. Several large booths featured like-minded producers who aim for the power of cooperation in promoting their respective brands. The group that calls itself Wine Changes is a perfect example.
  • Just when you thought you’d seen all the possible wine packages, along comes Lambrusco producer Cantine Ceci with Decanta, a wine whose beveled bottle allows it to be set down but tilted on an angle. A bottle doesn’t have to be hip or slick to be innovative. Enotalia (producer of Voga Italia and Luna Di Luna) chose ProWein as the launch pad for a new brand: Lady Lola. The two Lady Lola iterations are a Pinot Grigio and a surprising 80/20 Pinot Grigio-Moscato blend; both come in a squat bottle with wood-knobbed synthetic stopper—practically begging to be reused for olive oil or as a vase. And when is box wine not box wine? When it’s dressed up like an Encyclopedia, naturally.
  • Tuntenyeti, a German liqueur whose label sports a cross-dressing Yeti, suggests that political correctness aside, the future of wine/spirit products in the U.S. could easily get edgier.
  • Is America ready for Hugo? Especially popular in Germany and Austria, this premixed low-alcohol spritzer—a combination of white wine, sparkling water and a hint of lemon, mint and elderflower syrup—is quenching the mass market in cans, from multiple producers. Viv It and Dub Dub are especially eye-catching.

All things considered, the real triumph of ProWein is that the show is truly business-focused—parties take a back seat. With principals converging on Dusseldorf from all over the world, ProWein has become the stage for an increasingly global industry.

Who’s Going?

Attendance at ProWein 2013 (up 6% from 2012) marked a noticeable increase in participation from Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries, but also from France, Spain, Italy, North America and Asia. With almost 50%, the international wholesale, retail and specialist trade sector again accounted for the largest visitor group, followed by members of the restaurant and hotel trades. Over 70% of the visitors held management positions.

Prowein is organized by trade fair specialist Messe Düsseldorf (mdna.com). Exhibitor registration for 2014 is now available (deadline July 31st) at prowein.com; visitor registration opens in the fall. ProWein 2014—the 20th anniversary of the show—will take place March 23rd–25th, at the fairgrounds in Düsseldorf, Germany.


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