Although a struggling economy and the aftermath of 9/11 were less than ideal circumstances for Vinexpo to launch its first American foray, the show still promised to deliver much. Just-drinks' Anne Brockhoff was there to judge the results.

The first-ever Vinexpo Americas was deemed a "big hit" by organisers after the three-day event came to a close in New York on October 24th. Some 600 wine, spirits and other trade exhibitors from 28 countries drew 10,000 visitors, of which about 80% were American. The remainder travelled from Canada, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean to attend the event.

While just one-fifth the size of the original Vinexpo Bordeaux held biennially in France, Vinexpo Americas was still big enough to please many exhibitors.
"I'm happy with the response. This is what wine marketing is all about," said Peter Hall, vice president of consumer strategy and marketing for Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines.

Seminars led by the likes of Robert Parker and special tastings, including one hosted by Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, proved to be a draw for attendees, while the quality of trade representatives was a boon for exhibitors, some said."The caliber (of visitor) is impressive," said Dan Connolly, international sales director for Quinta do Noval of Portugal. "We're seeing the right sort of customers from Canada and the US."

Importers counted for 30% of visitors, while 20% were hotel and restaurant professionals. The remaining half included distributors and retailers (including supermarkets and superstores), representatives from American and Canadian liquor control boards, duty free (including cruise lines and airlines), buyers and producers.

For many participants, it was the first Vinexpo experience of any kind. "

"We've planned to go to Bordeaux for the past five or 10 years but never made it. Now that it's in the US, it's an excellent opportunity for us."
We've planned to go to Bordeaux for the past five or 10 years but never made it," said Gregory Green of Central Liquor, a Washington DC retailer. "Now that it's in the US, it's an excellent opportunity for us."

Still, the numbers fell short of the 700 exhibitors and 12,000 to 15,000 visitors Vinexpo organisers had hoped for. Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo Americas, blamed the sluggish American economy and the continued impact of last year's terrorist attacks for the shortfall. "It was a real challenge to organize this in Manhattan during this tough year," Beynat said. "But the success is there."

Vinexpo Americas was not profitable in its first year, but that was also expected, Beynat said."That is normal. This is the first time we've come here and we're willing to take that risk. It will be worth the investment," he said. The Vinexpo board will meet early next year to select a location for the second Vinexpo Americas, to be held in 2004.