This is a post about the price of participating in wine fairs (especially expensive trade fairs) and its effect on the cost of wine. I look specifically at participation in the London International Wine Fair. I think the costs of these fairs makes conventional participation too expensive for small independent producers, but the fair does make sense for larger producers or grouped producers.
What is a trade fair?
A trade fair is a large exhibition of wine producers intended for a professional audience (as opposed to a salon or foire which is generally open to the public). Trade Fairs can feature some public speakers, but they tend to center around the wine exhibition (as opposed to conferences which tend to be more about speakers). You don’t really sell bottles at a trade show. The hope is more to make deals for larger quantities.
note: this photo is of Millesime Bio which is actually one of the most reasonably priced and scaled trade fairs. Instead of hiring a stand, you get a table. And everybody has the exact same table and table cloth. No massive two story buildings for the bigger wineries. Just the same plain white table. An interesting twist.
Throughout the year, there are many trade fairs such as the LIWF (London), VinExpo/ViniSud (alternating years in Bordeaux/Montpellier), and ProWein (Düsseldorf). These are massive wine fairs full of stands (hundreds or even thousands of them) intended largely for professional audiences consisting of retailers, importers, negociants, journalists, etc.
You pay a pretty penny for your stand (thousands of euros for a small stand at an event that lasts a few days) and you hope to rack up as many business meetings and journalist sightings as possible.
How much does a trade fair cost?
The short of it is that trade fairs cost a lot. There is the basic cost of getting a stand. Then there are all sorts of ancillary costs like travel, lodging, and stand furniture. In the best case scenario, a fair like ViniSud might cost just over 1,000 Euros for the small stands. In the more extravagant scenarios, shows like VineExpo and the LIWF can cost thousands just to get in the door. And then you still have to furnish the stand and make it look different than the hundreds of other stands within line sight of yours. And if you want electricity, lighting, ice to chill your whites, or really anything other than a carpeted stand, you’ll probably have to pay for it.
I don’t want to be purely theoretical, so let’s grab some real numbers from the official trade fair websites.
– Shell package at £346/per sq.m. – Space only at £291/per sq.m
Shell Package is a pre-built stand with walls, lights, name-plates, shelving and a counter, which you just need to ‘dress’.
Space only is the name given to an area with nothing whatsoever on it. You are literally renting an empty ‘space’ on which you must build your own stand.
I’m not sure what the minimum space is at LIWF, and they’re not answering my emails (probably busy organizing the event which is just around the corner). But, from memory, the smallest stands still seemed to be at least 6 square meters. You might think thrifty winemakers always choose to self-furnish, but it’s not that simple. We can’t generally bring furniture on the RyanAir flight to Stansted. It often comes out cheaper to rent the conference’s furnishings. So you come out to 2400 Euros for a tiny stand. That doesn’t include the cost of shipping wine over, travel, lodging, etc.
270 Euros / square meter with a minimum 16 square metre space (4320 Euro minimum). And that’s for the cheap spaces that are only exposed on one side. There is separate pricing for the stands that are exposed on two, three and four sides. And that is just the stand price. There are additional registration fees just to open an dossier or to gain the right to be an indirect exhibitor (600 to 740 Euros).
To give you an idea of what exhibitors spend, VinExpo now has a clef en main offer where you really get a furnished stand where all the work has been done for you.. it’s 16 square meters and costs 9,920 euro. It includes “moquette, cloisons mitoyennes, 1 fronton avec logo de l’exposant, 1 bar comptoir avec évier et branchement eau, 1 vitrine, 1 réserve avec étagères de rangement, 1 patère, du mobilier (1 table ronde, 3 chaises, 2 tabourets hauts, 1 frigo, 1 poubelle), de la décoration florale, électricité (2 prises 24H/24H éclairage), le nettoyage journalier, l’assurance.”
ProWein is one of the most reasonably priced trade fairs which probably explains why it’s gaining so much popularity as an International event. Every year, they get more and more International visitors, apparently. I actually haven’t been so I can’t talk much about it. But even a less expensive fair is still going to end up costing the thriftiest exhibitor 1000+ Euros.
How do trade fairs affect cost of wine?
Well, it really depends on what kind of winemaker you are.
Some of my favorite producers like Domaine Revelh have barely 2 hectares of vines. They’re producing just a few thousand bottles of wine each year. Participation in a single trade show can easily raise the price of a bottle of their wine by 20-50 cents!
On the other hand, producers who put out 3 million bottles each year can amortize the cost of all the major wine fairs over 3 million bottles. In that case, the expense of a much larger stand at each of these fairs, and employees to occupy said stand only add fractions of a cent to each bottle.
It’s hard to generalize, but for your average boutique wine (where production tends to be less than 100,000 bottles per year) attending several trade fairs can mean a significant increase in cost on the wine (several cents per bottle).
As a winery, you’re hoping to generate long term sales. Even if you only make a couple one pallet sales, there’s a chance those merchants reorder your wine again in a few months and again after that. Alternatively, you can meet up with everybody who already buys your wine and taste the new vintage with them. Or you can get some press attention while all the journalists are in town (and again, hopefully this leads to sales).
As a wine drinker though… you have to feel a bit cheated. The cost of the trade fair gets incorporated into the overhead of running a winery and it gets tacked on to the final bottle price. It’s a cost that doen’t improve the quality of the wine.
Additionally, you won’t even benefit from the experience of the the trade show since it isn’t even intended for consumers. Whereas participation in events like Le Grand Tasting can at least be enjoyed by the general wine-drinking public, participation in trade shows is never meant to trickle down to consumers. The only potential benefit to the consumer is that a trade show can create a better supply chain making the product available in your market. But generally speaking, trade shows represent a cost that does not improve the end user’s experience of the wine. So is it worth it? Hmmm..
My UK importer, Naked Wines, strongly discourages its winemakers from expensive trade shows like this. Their philosophy is that all the money we spend should go into making the wine better. However they are pretty keen on some of my low-cost shenanigans which I talk about elsewhere.
What do you think? Are trade fairs a necessary means of finding supply chains? Or are they a bit of bloat that inflates wine prices unnecessarily?
The video went up of my talk at O’Reilly’s London Ignite 4. I announced earlier that I would be presenting on Pretending to be an Expert. And while it went very well, I get the sense that some people were hoping for a how to. Which will surely come soon. I’ll do a tutorial on how to sound like a total wine snob. But for now, here is the video dramatization of my personal journey through wine expertise and wine ignorance.
For those who don’t know, this is a terrifying format in which you only have five minutes and your slides automatically advance every 15 seconds (so you gotta be fast, planned and effective).
I should mention here that there are lots of experts who actually are talented and knowledgable and so on. But most of them are confident enough in their own expertise not to be troubled by a silly ignite talk by little old Ryan anyway.
After talking to my parents, I realized I should also explain what the hell a lolcat is. Lulcatz are an Internet meme (trend) that involve photoshopping awful spelling and grammar onto adorable pictures of kittens. If that doesn’t make sense to you immediately, then don’t bother trying to understand. You never will. It’s just silly and the most base sense of Internet humor. In a way, the symbolic opposite of expertise.
PS – I’m sort of bummed that you can’t hear people laughing. Trust me, they were enjoying themselves. It’s the kind of crowd that really digs lolcats!
Looks like I’ll be doing my first Ignite talk this February in London. Ignite talks are five minute powerpoint presentations where the slides auto-advance every 15 seconds. It’s a terrifying speech format and I’m really looking forward to it.
Additionally, one of my all time favorite Ignite presenters, Tom Scott, is going to be there doing his own presentation. He has one of the most watched Ignite presentation of all time on YouTube in which he tells the compelling story of a flash mob that could be. The way the video is cut, it’s not totally clear that this is fiction.. it is. But it could be reality. That makes the presentation that much more powerful.
Anyway, I’ll be talking about expertise and how sometimes you have to admit to knowing nothing before people recognize you as an expert. I hope people like it!!
It’s a really interesting atmosphere, and most of the shoppers have a totally different attitude than the people at your average American market or French foire. For one thing, I think Londoners have a tendency to buy one or two bottles for tonight. Whereas French folks go to foires to get discounted six packs and Americans tend to walk out of stores with entire 12 packs, the Londoner shops for dinner. Or for the next meal with friends. This is a generalization, but I’ve heard it from other people and I really believe it’s true.
But the market doesn’t just consist of Londoners shopping for tonight’s wine. You’ve got some tourists and looky-loos too. It’s important not to spend too much time with idlers, but it can be fun to teach folks a little about wine and contribute to the atmosphere of discovery that surrounds Borough Market, a foodie heaven. Plus, having one or two curious tasters can often draw a more serious crowd to your stand as crowds tend to draw crowds.
It was a hot day as London was experiencing its first bout of really nice 2010 summer weather. That makes it hard to taste red wines so we also poured Chateau Grezan’s 100% Cinsault rosé. Borough Wines knows I’m a sucker for Languedoc so I was only too happy to show off the Cinsault which presents as a dry, sturdy rosé. Far from the watered down wimps some people expect from other parts of the world, Grezan’s wine can cool you down and give you some flavor.
Anyway, it was a really positive experience. And I got to be a part of this really cool market, playing behind the curtain, and drinking all the wine on tap I could handle.
Everybody who works at Borough Wines is a delight to be around and we had a good time after closing up the shop.
I just wrapped up my first day at the London International Wine Fair 2010. It was pretty awesome. You’ve got the usual schmoozing with winos you’ve met the world over. And somewhere amidst all the kissing hands and shaking babies (might be backwards, or maybe not) you get to taste a lot of wine.
One highlight was the launch announcement for the European Wine Blogger’s Conference in Austria this year. The guy presenting the wines, Willi Klinger, is a champion. He’s amazing. And the wines were neat too.
Also a couple big Languedoc moments which I’ll probably talk more about at Love That Languedoc. But Gerard Bertrand, Puech Haut and O’Vineyards (3 Languedoc properties) all made appearances in the Access Zone on DAY ONE of the LIWF. What that says to me is that the Languedoc is cutting edge on this thing called the Internet.
And of course, if you’d like to see me goofing around with Oscar Quevedo, drinking in the morning, here is the video from Catavino. It has an awkward, wholesome Sesame Street vibe. You know.. if Sesame Street did an episode on winos.
How do you convince a bunch of wine professionals to work with other winemakers? You do it with the help of other winemakers, obviously!
I’m going to share the stage with Oscar Quevedo of Oscar’s Wine in the Douro Valley of Portugal. We’re going to leave the powerpoint presentation at home and we’re going to try to make people giggle as we taste through some of our favorite wines in the world: each other’s!
This offbeat performance is scheduled at 11 AM on Tuesday, May 18th, and it will take place at the daringly named “Access Zone” of the wine fair. Please stop by. You will have a blast. You will taste some yummy wines. You will even taste a wine cocktail. We will break every rule wine snobs hold dear. And we will do it all before noon time on a Tuesday. Because that is how we roll in the Access Zone.
11:00 Winery Collaboration with Quevedo and O-Vineyards
Oscar Quevedo from the Douro and Ryan O’Connell from the Languedoc, two powerful social media enabled wine producers, will show the power of collaboration in a live wine tasting of each others wines. Be prepared to laugh, enjoy some great wines, and have a good time. Not to mention learn something about how collaboration will lead to success with your wineries wines!
The Access Zone also has a ton of other wine programming organized by Catavino. Later on Tuesday, there’s going to be a deal with Tim Atkins (The Wine Gang) and Gérard Bertrand’s ‘Tautavel’ wine. Bertrand is another heavy hitter from the Languedoc and a French rugby legend, and I guess he’ll be making an appearance too. If the lineup of the access zone is indicative of the rest of the London Wine Fair, the LIWF should be a hoot and a half.
London, prepare yourself. You are about to be accessed…hard… ew.
As a lot of you know, Vicky Wine has been tearing up the wine tasting circuits, with grandiose events in London, Paris and beyond.
In her recent flurry of London tastings, she presented a couple of wines from O’Vineyards (to rave reviews). And she even found a home for the Mediterranean Mojo in London.
The top notch wine-innovators at Borough Wines are taking the Mojo under their wing for good. So if you want to get your hands on that Mojo, contact Borough. And if you want to get a sneak peak before you splurge, keep an eye on Vicky’s page where she’ll announce her next tasting in your area.
I’ll probably swing by the next London tasting myself. So you won’t have to watch the ridiculous videos we make to say hello to you from afar. Instead you’ll have to deal with the ACTUAL me. Thank god you’ll be drinking!! ;D
Intro video from last London tasting:
How to find us
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.