The biennial jamboree that is Vinexpo has once again seen large swathes of the wine trade descend on Bordeaux for five days of pouring, pow-wowing and parties. But, the 32 year-old show is not without its critics. In an exclusive interview with just-drinks, Vinexpo chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre responds to these concerns, talks China and where Vinexpo might go next 

just-drinks: Are you happy with the show overall this year? 

Xavier de Eizaguirre: Yes, so far so, good. The attendance is quite impressive, it’s about the same as two years ago. It looks quite good. 

j-d: And are all the exhibitors you anticipated here? Any disappointment from the no-shows? 

XdE: Yes, we have all the exhibitors we expected. The building is at maxium capacity and a great vareity of companies, including new ones from Mexico, Bulgaria and China. We have seen a lot of Chinese exhibitors, but also visitors. I think it will be a record number of Chinese visitors. 

Yes, some of the large companies have not showed up, but I think most of the people we wanted to come have come. It’s quite a stable number. As some get into the loop, others leave, but on a global basis, with a very few exceptions we have everybody we want. 

j-d: There's been some criticisms I've heard of the show - any plans to make changes for the next one? 

XdE: There’s a lot of things we won’t change. Why should we change a winning formula? Vinexpo for 32 years, it’s been a success. There’s a lot of room for improvement of course. We don’t own the building we’re in, we don’t own the city of Bordeaux, we don’t own the traffic of Bordeaux. We work hard, it’s not always perfect. We try to convince the city of Bordeaux to improve things, and we will continue to do that. 

Vinexpo chairman Xavier De Eizaguirre

j-d: Some people say ProWein is more professional, whereas Vinexpo is more about the PR and parties. How do you respond to that? 

XdE: Well, first of all we’ve had 32 years of on-going, non-stop success. People are still very happy to come here, otherwise they would have stopped coming. Vinexpo provides a certain type of contacts and environment and ProWein achieves different goals. I’ve been an exhibitor for many years at ProWein. They are very focussed on a certain type of customer, particularly Eastern Europe. 

But ProWein is like Vinexpo, in that you make contacts and then the business happens down the road. It’s not the real purpose of the exhibitions, it’s a platform for the buyers and sellers. 

j-d: Others have said ProWein benefits from being earlier in the year because of the timing of harvests. Would you consider moving the date for Vinexpo? 

XdE: No, absolutely not. We have a tradition of doing it in June. It’s not always perfect because sometimes it rains and sometimes it’s too hot. But, it’s the perfect time for when the vineyards are looking great, as it’s the beginning of summer. This is a rendezvous people come to, I don’t see any reason to change. You don’t want to come to Bordeaux when it’s not looking its best. 

j-d: I must ask you about the attack on the Chinese students, which was reported in the wider media. What is the latest situation? 

XdE: It was very unfortunate, ridiculous. I think the people who did it had been drinking and it happened to be Chinese people. Measures are being taken. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all over the world, so nobody will be able to stop this kind of stupidity. 

j-d: So you regard this as an isolated incident and nothing to do with resentment over Chinese business people acquiring vineyards in Bordeaux? 

XdE: Absolutely not, as far as I know. Bordeaux has a tradition of being open to the world. There's always been (foreign) investment in Bordeaux. There was a time when the Brits were investing here, then the Americans, now it’s the Chinese. So what, it’s only a tiny portion. I've never heard or seen or heard any xenophobic attitudes in Bordeaux, but drunks are drunks. 

j-d: Obviously, there's a lot of talk about the China opportunity. But ViniPortugal's president told me he thinks it's overstated. Is this a fair comment? 

XdE: That’s his opinion, I have the exact opposite opinion. China is already number eight in terms of worldwide consumption, when considering a few years ago it was on the boundaries. I think it shows how large the market can be. 

Everybody can benefit from China. Right now France is leading the pack. Why is France leading the pack? As China has opened up, they’ve looked at the Western lifestyle and France was considered a fashionable product, but i think it’s a temporary situation. France will continue to grow, but i think we’ll see a lot more new world wines including from Australia, which is next door (to China), break through." 

j-d: Why Beijing for a new show, and not Shanghai? 

XdE: Well, a couple of reasons. Number one, there is already a number of shows there (Shanghai). There are many other cities opening up China. We chose Beijing because it is the capital city, Bejing is also where a lot of HQs are based for public and private companies. So we believe it’ s the right place to start. 

There are issues to solve (in China) with distribution. There's lots of wholelsalers, and counterfeit problems, grey imports, but the market is there, we have no doubt about it. 

j-d: Where will be the next place Vinexpo goes to? 

The next area to look at is South America, but particularly Brazil. But before we do we need to make sure the (tax) situation has improved. What’s the point in bringing all the producers in the world to Brazil if the taxes are what they are?

The consumption levels are there (Brazil), the problem is to get the products there at a reasonable price level. But it is surrounded by Argentina and Chile, so it’s a good group of markets.