Why Aren't There More Traveling Wine Fairs?


After the great time I had at the 2012 California Wine Fair last week, I did some research and was thrilled to find more traveling wine fairs from a couple of other countries coming here to Toronto, Canada.

On April 16th, The Austrian Wine Fair makes its debut in Canada (YAY!) and I’m going. The very next day, Argentina’s World Malbec Day event happens. On May 10th, the Kiwis drop the New Zealand Wine Fair on us. Then on the 15th, California drops in on us again with the LCBO hosted California Zinfadel event. Hell, even one of our local regions got wise to the idea and the Prince Edward County Country in the City wine event happens tomorrow.

I’ve already got my tickets to the Austrian Wine Fair, World Malbec Day and the PEC event tomorrow and am going to the Kiwi and Zinfadel events. I can hardly wait.

The only question I have is… why aren’t more wine associations from the winemaking countries doing this? I don’t know if any of you have eve come across any other wine fairs hosted by the wine associations of the host countries, but I’m personally dying to be able to attend a French or Australian or German or Italian wine fair!

I mean, isn’t this a no-brainer? At least from my experience here in TO, these things always sell out and seem to do extremely well in the US as well. So why wouldn’t more countries hit up our two countries with these types of wine fairs? [scratch.gif]

I actually sent an email to a contact who actually works for the Canadian office of the Wines of Australia! Yes, Canada is apparently such a huge consumer of Australian wines that they literally opened up an official office half a continent away just to market to us. And this is even with the restrictive monopolies we have in most provinces. No response. Do they actually like New Zealand and California and even Prince Edward County to steal their thunder?

I can’t figure this one out, so it just means that I’ll have a blast at the wine fairs that are coming to town and let them convert me into a loyal client just as the California and Port and Dour Wine Fairs did to me last year. flirtysmile

I think it is because the Euros sell all the wine to the US via the three-tier system and none of the wholesalers think it would benefit them. Since alcohol is controlled state by state, a fair would have to travel a lot of states here, one at a time. It can’t happen at a country-level, as in TO.

Tran - almost every country in Europe has a national or local organization that does exactly what you say. There are events all the time, although not always open to the public.

Recently, some of the larger organizations have dialed back a bit for several reasons. Most importantly, the euro crisis has killed a lot of their budgets. That’s a huge thing because those trade fairs are mostly for ego and they’re logical cutbacks. The Italians for example, have cut back drastically as a result - they used to have events that lasted several days.

Secondly, and more importantly, after a few of them, some of the producers simply give up. The fairs are very costly for the participants and they’d FAR rather work with their distributors/importers than chance on some random stranger happening by and making a difference in their lives. The Australian Harvest Faire is a case in point - most of the wines are on the market anyway and pouring for some strangers who can’t buy doesn’t do a lot for business.

Third, they’re not always coordinated. Again, as they’re more for ego than anything else, you’d have various organizations that overlapped, showing similar wine several weeks apart. Italy is famous for that until the last couple of years, but Spain does it too.
In general, I’d have to say the French are best except that the Argentines also stay focused.

At the events, you often have people looking for importers, but depending on the organization, those are better or worse for the producers. Sometimes they’re done well and integrated with real press campaigns. For example, all the buzz about Jura over the past few years has been because they coordinated their marketing and PR and got to people like Asimov and the “hip” importers and wine bars. So now you see postings of TNs about those wines that nobody cared about seven years ago.

But for every success like that, there are regions like Sardinia and Alicante that are struggling to make an impression. Many producers find it much more cost effective to fly a group of buyers over to their country and to hold targeted tastings with them. Remember, for small people, the US is expensive.

Trade organizations are kind of like a tax on the producers. They get money from several sources, but much of it comes from the producers. So with the cutbacks from central govt, the producers would need to pick up the slack. In places like New York, the venues are expensive, the flight and hotels are expensive, and the wine still needs to be shipped in. And nobody is going to hold a fair in Kansas City, so you’re going to have to hit the big markets.

So as to why there aren’t more - there are, but put yourself into the head of a participant rather than an attendee. If you’re pouring for the public, what’s the return? You’re better off visiting some stores with your importer. If you’re looking for an importer, what’s the return on showing your wines to the public at large? Or to importers that already carry something from your neighbor?

“Brand awareness” is nice, but it has to return in sales or it’s just an excuse for a bunch of people to try free wine and a waste of resources for the producers.

I think it’s because people are very afraid of carnies and accordingly, the term “traveling fair” makes people uncomfortable.

In France the Salon de Vignerons Independent has been very successful. The now have a waiting list for exhibitors for some of the venues. Consumers show up with a dolly and load up 10-12 cases or more from their favorite producers. Many of the producers are able to sell all or most of their vintages at these events.

It seems like in California this type of event could be legally permitted so that imported wines could be sold to consumers. However, for the producers who don’t sell all of their wine it’s not as simple as loading up the van and heading back home.

To clarify (or maybe just restate) one of the points Greg made, these groups tend to focus on the trade rather than consumers because their money is spent much more efficiently that way. I see many such events in this area, but only for the trade. Everything else he said is also right on the money.

There are. I’ve been to all the areas you mention in the past - at least as trade events.

Italy? check
France (including several regional trade events)? check
Austria? check.
Germany? Check.
Australia, N.Z., California, Chile? Wash & Oregon? all check.

Actually can’t think of a significant country or region that exports wine that hasn’t hosted a trade fair in Toronto.

The Austrian event is my favourite year to year as the producers are excellent with a full portfolio to taste. Willy & Birgitta from the trade comm. & marketing boards put together an excellent event. Not really geared towards the public though.
I think they started adding the evening public event following the afternoon trade event 5 or 6 years ago, but I could be wrong on the timing. Inevitably either the importers or producers themselves sort of ‘mail it in’ during the evening event and the wines shown are somewhat less interesting or absent altogether.

Thanks for the info, Greg. That was rather insightful. However, per Chris’ post above, it seems there are other trade fairs and events occuring here. Whether I can get into them or not is another matter.

Now as for “phoning it in,” considering what they are charging I think it’s absolute BS if they hold anything back from the event. I am specificially going to the Austrian event for all the BAs and TBAS.

Won’t be that many ba’s and tba’s Tran- maybe a half-dozen? Much of Austria in general terms leans towards a drier style.
Apart from Neusiedlersee producers, such as Kracher, you don’t find prodigious amounts of what you’re looking for compared to their germanic cousins. Can’t recall if Kracker attends these. I think yes. Look for Heidi Schrock as well if you’re lucky.

I prefer the drier styled G.V.'s, Rieslings and Sauv blanc’s from Wachau, Traisental, Kremstal & Kamptal, but so much of it is delicious.

Greg T: "For example, all the buzz about Jura over the past few years has been because they coordinated their marketing and PR and got to people like Asimov and the “hip” importers and wine bars. So now you see postings of TNs about those wines that nobody cared about seven years ago.’’

Excuse me? What evidence do you have that any Jura marketing is going on? Or that they even have PR? Are that any of them ever even talked to me? Do you have any clue what you are talking about?