Serious wine importers say “we don’t go to large trade fairs – waste of time!

April 08, 2009
By winepleasures

Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Italian Cellar AssisiRecent large trade fairs such as ProWein and Vinitaly are great places to visit if, according to The Tasting Note “you make poor wine or you are a large producer with a fat wallet “There are a lot of big, fancy stands at Vinitaly. Some are there because the wines are crap and they think that by putting on a big show, people will come to them. Others are big because their wines are brilliant, they have made a lot of money and they can afford to put on a big, professional looking display“.

My experience of attending large wine trade fairs ranges from – great place to go for free drinks and food in my younger years to not such a great place for playing hide and seek with small boutique wineries. Nowadays, I find large trade fairs tiring, time consuming, expensive, stressful and highly impersonal and consequently, generally tend to stay clear of them.workshop-casa-gran

Fortunately for the small to medium sized boutique winery there now exists a host of small, stress free, highly personalised events for wineries to get to know small to medium sized serious wine buyers. By small to medium sized buyers I mean they would be looking to order 1-2 pallets a year.

One such event is the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Italian Cellar where producers schedule pre-arranged meetings with carefully selected buyers so that when the event begins both have a schedule of mutually agreed meetings.

RMB Associates, buyers for both the US and Canadian market clearly found what they were looking for at a recent Wine Pleasures Workshop.


C & J Fine Wines based in Manchester  look set to participate in the Italian workshop and are specifically looking out for a Pinot Grigio wine.


Neither companies of course attended Vinitaly or will be attending London Wine.

Here are some buyer comments given in recent interviews comparing the workshop methodology to a large trade fair:

Highly personalised allowing you to make personal relationships with the winemakers – not just taste the wines

You spend a lot of time with the wineries – you dine with them, see them in the hotel, have a laugh with them and of course meet them and get the opportunity to taste their wines several times over two days

It’s a cost effective way of making purchase decisions – we don’t go to large trade fairs – waste of time!

At trade fairs there is not enough time to get to know the people, just taste the wines. At the workshop you get to know the people, which is important if we are to sell their wines.

Another interesting boutique wine event coming up for wine buyers, again in Italy in June is Terroir Vino 2009. Not just any winery can participate in this event. Wineries must first get into a quality circle by having their wines tasted by a panel – if the quality is good then they are in and able to participate in Terroir Vino. Date for this event is Monday 15 June.

Small wine producers and small wine importers do look out for the small boutique events for export/purchase opportunities. They should certainly prove to be an effective alternative to the large trade fair circuit.

I’d like to end with a quote from a wine importer based in Belgium but buying not only for the Belgium market but also, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland:

“It is to my opinion the better way to make assessed purchase decisions. Properly organised workshops with screened buyers and producers that are away from the fairs for the masses allow for time to discuss actual business rather then uselessly shaking hands and putting up smiles. A much more competence oriented way of doing business in a relaxed and convivial but professional atmosphere”. Gusto World by Creative.


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    Thanks a lot Anthony for telling about Terroir Vino.

    Bye, Fil

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    To certain extent Anthony, i agree with what you have written..large wine trade fairs like Vinitaly are a headache to handle and even if we know what to look for, it seems finding them onsite are difficult…moreover, i personally feel that wineries exhibiting in Vinitaly are more focussed on getting a business deal signed and all other things are not important. When i did my master thesis in Italy, my supervisor brought me to Vinitaly 08 and as usual, as a student, i don’t wear that fancy suit and bring with me a business card, so whenever i tried approaching a booth, sometimes they did give some tastings but most of the time, they pretended i wasn’t there..i feel so unwelcomed there! And now that i am working with a wine importer here in Kuala Lumpur, i will think twice of going to Vinitaly in the future…

    On the other hand,given the chance, i prefer going to small wine trade fairs such as TerroirVino..i had the chance attending one last year (again, thanks to my supervisor) and found it to be much easier to navigate and of course get the necessary contacts..i still keep all the business cards i receive during this particular wine fair and intends to follow up to cater to the expansion of our company wine portfolio…

    i am all up for small wine trade attended by selected small and medium boutique wineries!

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    Many times small to medium sized “no-name” wineries are snobed by importers in large trade fairs. The trend is to be cool and make a good appearence. However, in the end of the day it is all very much tiring and not leading to any new experiences. We believe that for small boutique wineries like ours the ONLY way to get to good business is by creating knowledge and providing experience through personalized meetings and tastings. The “big guys” sell bottles of wines like as in a big wine industry, while the small Wineries sell experience and tradition in a bottle. I am not sure if I can pass on what I mean, but we believe that it is essencial to have a personal approach where We can pass on the values hidden in each of our bottles.

    See you in Treviso

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    I want to thank you Anthony for all you’re making to promote small wineries and general “small wine realities”, my opinion on this topic is the same of RMB Associates : “You have to be prepared” and from what I read here, you did it !

    I hope to be able to take part to the next Workshop with my winery, so please keep my contact and up to date me .

    A big Greeting from an almost unknown italian region: Romagna !

    Emanuele Coveri

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    Thank you for the good advice. A further favour would be to refer us (mid to small wineries) to a website that posts a schedule for events sponsored for/by us.

    Denman Zirkle

    • Avatar

      Good point someone should compile one – maybe we will do one over time 🙂 Of great help would for people to tell us about specific events


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