After 16 years away, Vinexpo, the massive wine and spirits trade show, returned to the Big Apple this week. More than 500 vintners from 23 countries, nearly 3,500 American importers, distributors, retailers and journalists gathered at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan for two days to make deals and discuss the evolving U.S. wine market.
"My expectations for the inaugural Vinexpo New York were high and were exceeded," Vinexpo CEO Guillaume Deglise told Wine Spectator. "The U.S. is the world's top consumer of wine, and Vinexpo allowed producers to reach some of the bigger players, and for smaller distributors to discover new brands and products to speak to the growing demand for niche brands."
Vinexpo's biennial Bordeaux event is one of the wine world's biggest trade shows. The New York edition was a chance for producers to learn more about the American market and, for some of them, a chance to find an importer and break into that market. At hundreds of booths spread across two floors, vintners from countries ranging from France and Greece to Japan and Moldova poured tastes of their wines and met with members of the trade. Martha Stewart joined the crowd, meeting with suppliers for her direct-to-consumer wine service and scouting for new wines.
On the lower floor, a large Australian contingent poured some of Down Under's finest wines, part of a $50 million marketing push by Wine Australia to recapture the U.S. market. And on the other side of the hall, an ornate display case presented the Wine Spectator 90+ Club Showcase, a collection of wines at the event that had earned 90 points or higher.
"This has been a wonderful event," said Pierre Favarel of the small Bordeaux estate Domaine de l'Île Margaux. "We have been able to meet people and really raise our profile in America."
"We wanted to provide an opportunity for producers to access a new market and a way for buyers to taste new wines and meet new producers to the market," said Mary Larkin, executive vice president of Diversified Communications, Vinexpo's American partner.
When people were not visiting booths, they could attend themed tastings and seminars on topics like protecting wine region names, the shifting patterns of consumption, new research on the effects of climate change, the purchasing power of Millennials and the rise of e-commerce. At a conference titled "Current Trends in the U.S. Wine Market," Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews moderated a panel that brought together importers, a retailer and a marketer to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of the U.S. market, which has long been dominated by domestic brands, but whose younger consumers are showing increased interest in imports.
"The American consumer has gotten so sophisticated," said Chris Adams, CEO of New York retailer Sherry-Lehmann. "Brands we're going to introduce and sell have got to have a story." And that was producers' goal at the event—a chance to tell their story.
Vinexpo will return to New York March 4-5, 2019.