Vinexpo Explorer eschews the exhibitions and fairs that Vinexpo has made its name with and takes buyers into vineyards and cellars.
The first chapter of Vinexpo Explorer takes place on September 11-12 this year in the vineyards of Austria.
The idea is that this same group of 100 international buyers will meet each year – with a few buyers naturally being replaced if they cannot make it or have moved onto a new job – and visit a different region.
The Douro, Sicily, Oregon, western Australia and Swartland are the sort of regions Vinexpo has in mind, and it also plans to run Vinexpo Explorer buying trips to spirits producing regions and countries like Scotland.
Guillaume Deglise, chief executive at Vinexpo, which runs exhibitions in Bordeaux and Asia, said: “We want to create a community of buyers. Vinexpo is a partner of the industry and we need to know our customers much better. These will meet every year, at least once a year, in a different place, share their views and experiences, and we will run workshops to make the wines more successful.
“This is a very high-profile concept, a great opportunity for the hosting region to show its best wines or spirits to the best buyers.
“It cannot be a very recognised region. We aren’t going to do it in Bordeaux. Most international buyers know Bordeaux. Austria has potential on the international market. It’s not yet on the radar of international buyers, but it can be in future thanks to Vinexpo.
“You can see Austria is one of the hottest rising destinations for wine and top sommeliers in New York, London and Sydney know about it, but the consumer is not fully aware of the characteristics of Austrian wine. It produces all three colours – four if you include orange – along with sparkling and sweet wines. It has a good image but there is work to be done to accelerate sales of Austrian wine around the world.”
The idea is that wineries will the scale and desire to export will pay a fee to be there for the two days. A hundred buyers that can also sell decent volumes and have an interest in the region will fly in for an intense two-day trip full of workshops, masterclasses, tastings, vineyard visits and dinners, and be bombarded with top wines from the region while also networking and sharing best practice.
Vinexpo said it would use its extensive database to identify the world’s top 100 buyers – 10 of them coming from the UK – taking in retail chains, department stores, hotel groups and so on.
When asked how it will persuade these busy buyers to attend and keep coming back each year, Deglise told OLN: “This event is unique and we will advertise the fact that they can be part of a community of buyers, which doesn’t exist, and it’s a great opportunity for a UK buyer to meet up with someone from a Scandinavian monopoly, a buyer from the USA, a buyer from Japan and so on.
“We will check that all buyers have an interest in buying Austrian wine, and that’s why the flight needs to be at their own expense, to show a motivation for the event.”
He said the buying group can change a bit each time. For instance, there won’t be many Germans on the first trip as Germany is already well-versed in Austrian wine, but when they visit the next region they will be more prevalent.
Willi Klinger, managing director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, added: “From our side we feel the obligation to make this a once in a century event. The tasting formats have to be unique. We have to pull out bottles you normally can’t get. Everything will be perfect and we will make sure this event will be something you can’t have when you just visit the country.
“In 2014-15 we grew sales 17% in the UK. Our average price is one of the highest and we are in the fine wine business. We had a wine crisis in 1985 and it took 20 years to get it back and start growing sales again, and now we are one of the most dynamic wine producing countries. We also have Riedel producing great glassware, and fantastic coopers, so it should make a great occasion.”