The Losh Cause
Photography by Claire Griffith
For the first time in about 10 years, Chris Losh will not be at Vinexpo, and there is clearly plenty about the biennial wine show that he will not be missing.
This is the first time for around a decade that I won't be at the Bordeaux bunfight, and as a non-attendee I've just realised how much this one event dominates the summer skyline. Most of the drinks world's great and good are preparing for, travelling to, exhibiting at and recovering from Vinexpo for the best part of three weeks. That's a long time…
I've already gone on the record elsewhere to give my viewpoint on Vinexpo (that it's too big, too expensive and, just possibly, not quite so essential to either buyers or exhibitors as it once was) so I'm not going to bang on about that.
No, my secondary observation, if you like, is this: given the size of this event, can it realistically continue to be held successfully in a city that simply isn't up to the job? Nothing against Bordeaux itself, here, incidentally - it's a fine city. I went on holiday there last year. But it patently does not have the facilities for an event of this size.
Every restaurant is jam-packed every night - even those that are lucky to be in business at all, while those fortunate enough to find a hotel in the city (and most are booked many months in advance) are likely to be charged four times the usual rate for the privilege. The long-awaited tram system is, apparently, close to completion, but the roads are still a disgrace.
The problem, of course, is that what started as a medium-sized wine fair has mushroomed into something altogether different. The growth has been spectacular and for this the organisers should be given due credit. However, is it reasonable to expect a city of 220,000 people to absorb an estimated 50,000 visitors?
Plenty has been done around the city to try to improve matters but in the grand scheme of things these efforts cannot solve the problem of Bordeaux's size. So could the show be transplanted to Paris - a city that has hotels, restaurants and transport links galore? Sure, Paris is hardly vineyard central, but Vinexpo's visitors aren't there to look at rows of vines waving (or baking) in the sun - they're there to do business, or so the organisers claim anyway. All this 'spiritual heart of French wine' stuff sounds good on paper, but for those who've spent three hours baking in a car to get to the exhibition and end up eating in McDonalds, woolly emotionalism is less appealing than practical convenience.
Viewed logically, there's no reason on earth why Bordeaux should even be in the running for an event like this. Except, of course, for the fact that Vinexpo is owned and run by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, whose members are only too happy to see bulging restaurants and over-inflated hotel tariffs.
The question the organisers need to ask themselves is this: Is Vinexpo a global fair run for the benefit of the international trade, or a local fair run for the benefit of the Bordelais but bankrolled by everyone else?
If they start seriously to consider a long-overdue move north, we'll know it's the former. If the event remains obstinately wedded to the outskirts of Bordeaux, we'll know it's the latter.
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