The main Italian wine trade body, ICE, has pulled out of Vinexpo owing €300,000 and throwing its members into confusion

Seven weeks from the upcoming Bordeaux wine trade fair which takes place in June this year, ICE (Istituto per il Commercio con l’Estero) has informed Vinexpo that it is cancelling its participation.

ICE is cancelling, it says, on the grounds that the exhibition area proposed by Vinexpo is too small and fragmented and does not present the right image.

ICE says it negotiated – over a period of a year and a half – a central space of 1,100 square metres. It says in March this year it realised that the area proposed did not correspond to its specifications.

Vinexpo chief executive Robert Beynat told decanter.com he was ‘confused and disappointed’ by the situation.

‘I met with ICE in February 2004. We agreed to give them 200 sq m more but we never agreed that the whole of Italy could be together in one hall. Countries are never put together – even France and Chile are broken up into two areas.’

Beynat said ICE also asked for a central position but were refused at the beginning of the negotiations.

On 1 April Vinexpo received a letter from ICE’s lawyers with its demands and the ultimatum that ICE would pull out of Vinexpo if the demands were not met. The cancellation is the result.

Beynat said they were not negotiating with ICE, nor would there be any concessions. He also said Vinexpo would be pursuing the €300,000 that ICE owed as a result of cancelling.

He added he was nonplussed, as Vinexpo had been dealing with ICE ‘for 20 years’. He said there were various theories as to why the situation had broken down so irretrievably. It is thought for example that the breakdown could be the result of infighting between Italian government ministries.

As for the scores of producers and organisations that were planning to exhibit under the ICE umbrella, they are now applying to Vinexpo to rent the space vacated by ICE.

Written by Michele Shah, and Adam Lechmere