This year, most major trade shows have been cancelled or postponed. The virus made it impossible to visit Prowein, Vinitialy, VieVinum, Bordeaux, etc., in the same way that regular wine tastings on premise have almost completely ceased.
Wine tastings soon transitioned to the net, ie virtual wine tastings where you sit at home and taste wines in real time connected via Facebook, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and similar services. Both the Munskänkarna (a Swedish wine tasting club) and several wine importers have tested it and seem satisfied.
These tastings are based on that you purchase the wines from Systembolaget (The Swedish monopoly retailer) in advance or through an online store. The disadvantage of being only one or two people is that you end up sitting with a bunch of opened bottles in the fridge afterwards. But it works…
But what about professional events?
The pure trade fairs for alcoholic drinks have, as mentioned, also been cancelled. But the other week I was invited to a virtual trade fair in France called Hopwine!
As usual, the fair was only open to professional customers, ie importers, restaurants, sommeliers, wine writers, etc. The event took place between 18 and 25 May, ie for a week. During this time, as a registered visitor, you could connect online with 150 different wine producers from 7 countries and read about their more than 700 different wines. It was mostly wineries, cooperatives and negociants from France, Spain and Italy. But also, for example, from outh Africa, Switzerland and Israel.
If you wanted to talk to the winemaker or someone else, there were telephone numbers provided.
So you could come back as many times as you wanted during the week. When you felt satisfied, you could order samples. These were sent out after the fair in the form of boxes with 2 cl bottles of the wines you asked for. As a registered visitor you had the opportunity to order from 30 exhibitors (I limited myself to ten). Each exhibitor also had only a limited number of samples to offer (I suspect that they had committed to deliver at least 100 samples). Since I was there from the very beginning I could choose at liberty but probably the samples eventually run out.
I have yet to get the sample bottles home in the mailbox and do not know how the producers will follow up on it. It was said that you can continue the contact yourself if interest exists, request quotes and negotiate terms. If the producer already had an agent in Sweden, this was stated and samples could not be ordered.
I suspect we have only seen the beginning of this virtual revolution. Hotels and restaurants have also come up with many new and creative ways to conduct their business in corona times. It would be really good if our politicians would allow restaurants that offer take away food to have the possibility to include beer or wine (currently illegal in Sweden). This is something that several industry representatives have recently proposed, but to which the (politically strong) teetotalling movement is, of course, opposed.
The virtual wine fair was interesting to attend. When the fair “closed the gates”, they counted 3,864 visitors from 80 countries worldwide and 4,226 boxes of samples had been ordered! I forgot to say that for the visitors everything was completely free, the fair and the producers offer samples with shipping and the logistics taken care of.
I will come back with a report when I have tasted the samples!
Carl-Magnus Hedin has worked with communications including with his own agency. Then became winegrower, and now wine importer.
This post is also available in: Swedish