ProWein impressed trade observers this year

ProWein impressed trade observers this year

The battle between global wine exhibitions has never been so fierce. And, with the wine industry struggling in many key markets, companies are being forced to pick and choose where they invest their efforts when it comes to these industry jamborees.

Granted, this has been the case for some time. But, this week's ProWein brought into sharp focus where the balance of power currently lays. And it certainly appears the German event is leading the way in many respects. 

Firstly, there's the size of ProWein. Admittedly, this was my first year at the show, but even seasoned observers commented on the vastness of this week's event, as two new halls were added, bringing the total to nine. In all, 4,783 exhibitors from 48 countries were at the event, organisers reported.  Meanwhile, visitor numbers were up by around 10% on 2011, to 44,000, while international attendees also increased in number. 

Of course, it's not just about the numbers. It's about the quality.

ProWein appeared to have that too. Su Birch, Wines of South Africa's chief executive, said producers had given “very positive” feeback about the amount of business they had done over the three days. “We had our biggest stand ever, with 70 producers,” she said. “But, I think what's impressive is the quality of visitors the show now attracts.” This tallied with the organisers own figures that showed around 70% of visitors held "management positions". 

Birch added: “The quality of people – the buyers – is just better (than other exhibitions)." 

Andrew Carter, Treasury Wine Estates' Europe, Middle East and Africa MD, was also impressed by the calibre of attendees, noting the “high quality” of visitors and customer meetings. 

Part of this is down to its location: Not just that it is central, globally, but also the fact that it's a short hop from Dusseldorf International Airport, with a free bus service laid on for visitors. 

Another factor appears to be the tight controls on who is allowed to enter the show. I can certainly vouch for that, having been made to wait while my press credentials were thoroughly checked over. 

UK buyers in particular were there in abundance at this week's show. I ran into a pumped-up looking Dan Jago of Tesco between halls, who, after a short chat told me he had a diary crammed full of appointments, so had to dash. 

Walking the floor on day two of the show was also a revealing experience. Again, the sheer vastness of the stands for Spanish and Argentinian producers was head-spinning. Many stands were buzzing and even at niche producer stands, like Georgia, it was standing room only in their meeting area. The relatively small English Wine Producers stand - the group's debut at ProWein - was also attracting plenty of footfall. 

My one gripe would be regarding the lack of communal areas within the halls themselves. Accolade's Carter also voiced concerns about the organisers needing to liase with exhibitors more over “show organisation, timings and layout”. 

On reflection though, other wine shows have a lot to live up to. With the London International Wine Fair just around the corner in May – and again a number of exhibitors dropping out – the pressure is on. In contrast, LIWF is expecting "in excess" of 500 exhibitors. Bordeaux's Vinexpo in June is also being increasingly seen by some as an expensive, less accessible option than ProWein. 

As WoSA's Birch told me: "ProWein is entrenched as the number one business event (for wine) in Europe."  

Can anyone disagree?