A ‘trade only’ event, it happens every other year and is probably the largest, and certainly the most important, event of its kind in the world.
The size of the Bordeaux Lac Exhibition Centre is impressive enough in its own right.
The main hall is about a kilometre long, making those of the London Excel Centre look positively tiny.
With outside temperatures of 38oC, the air conditioning in the building was working overtime to keep all those thousands of wine samples at a reasonable temperature. Having dashed from the car park to avoid the baking sun (in England we dash to avoid the rain!) entry to the exhibition was superbly organised, particularly in view of the thousands of visitors coming from all over the world.
Free shuttle buses ran for all four days of the exhibition, from the airport, train station and the centre of the city of Bordeaux, for those registered to attend the fair.
Once inside, the scale was almost overwhelming, with 2,300 wine companies from every wine producing country of the world, showing the most extraordinary variety of wines accumulated under one roof.
One of the most interesting aspects, is the sheer internationalism of the wine trade and the exchange of information and ideas on all matters concerned with making or drinking wine. On one stand, there is a producer from Argentina talking to a buyer from Hong Kong – both speaking the international language of English. On another, a Portuguese girl is discussing pricing in fluent French with an Englishman.
Together with the thousands of companies exhibiting their wines and spirits, there was also a four-day programme of tastings and events covering every wine topic imaginable: Tasting of wines from Serbia, Exporting wines and Spirits to the USA, Tasting of the 2016 Vintage from the top Bordeaux Chateaux, Grenache from around the World, the impact of Organic and Biodynamic methods on the taste of Wine, the list is long, interesting and top level.
The Fair has many surprises every year, even for seasoned wine professionals and it is an event not to be missed. Producers from Albania, Belgium and Egypt (Yes, Egypt!), together with 24 companies from China, and 13 from Japan, vie for attention alongside better known, or more traditional producers, such as the 56 champagne houses and 218 Italian producers.
Luckily, a visit to the Fair is not all hard work and there were no less than 20 restaurants to choose from for a well-deserved lunch break. Queuing for a table under the baking sun with temperatures approaching 40oC, was made a little more bearable with glasses of chilled Bordeaux Rosé being handed out for free at La Brasserie des Bordeaux.
The three-course lunch also included as much wine as you could drink from a choice of 36 chateau-bottled Bordeaux wines, red, white, rosé or sparkling. One of my discoveries at the fair was a top quality range from Provence from Chateau Réal d’Or. The owner/wine-maker Francois Lethier is a forward-thinking producer and has a range under the banner of Monaco and Monte Carlo, although the vineyards are located at Gonfaron in the Var department, the heartland of Provence wines.
The red I tasted, called Le Rocher 2014, had exceptional depth and structure and is made with Cabernet Sauvignon in the grape variety mix, along with Syrah and Grenache. Great length on the palate, you can almost smell the Provence herbs and wild lavender on the nose.
Soon to be available at Harrods in London, with a price tag of between £20 and £30 per bottle.
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.
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