Major American distributor Brown-Forman will not be attending this year's Vinexpo in Bordeaux, claiming it has 'lost a degree of relevance'.

David Cox, managing director Europe for Brown Forman – whose stable includes Bonterra and Fetzer – said, ‘It’s increasingly expensive to be there and in these tough times you really have to question the value.

‘If you are established and already have a distribution network, then your distributors don’t want to see you at Vinexpo. We are already well-established and we see the people we need to be talking to on a regular basis.’

Cox said he believed other US firms shared his point of view, and added, ‘Vinexpo these days is a luxury. It harks back to when the French thought they were the centre of the wine world, and Bordeaux isn’t anymore.’

Brown Forman plans to channel the money it will save – approximately US$100,000 – into developing the brand in key European markets.

Cox emphatically denied the decision had anything to do with the situation in Iraq or the safety of his staff.

Vinexpo chairman Jean-Marie Chadronnier said he respected Brown Forman’s decision not to attend, but pointed out his chief concern was the lack of space to house all the companies that want to exhibit.

‘All the people who are coming think it’s relevant,’ he said. ‘The number of American pre-registered visitors is even higher than this time last year. In the past, we have had other cases of companies deciding not to come anymore, but every year we have new companies.’

Vinexpo takes place in Bordeaux from 22-26 June. It will host 2,500 exhibitors from 40 countries.

Written by Charles Williams29 April 2003