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Prowein 2016: Inside a wine trade show

Decanter's content director John Stimpfig rests his sore feet to write about life inside one of the biggest wine trade shows in the world, Prowein 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Today (15 March) is the last day of Prowein 2016 in Düsseldorf. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the world’s most gargantuan trade show for the international wine and spirits industries, that will probably mean very little. For those of us who have convened in Germany for some or all of the last three days, it is a bit of a blessed relief.

‘Everyone in the wine world is here’

Don’t get me wrong, Prowein is a great show, run with characteristic German efficiency. Not only that, ‘everyone’ in the wine world is here – somewhere in this vast expanse of aircraft hangars. And that is what makes it so compelling but also so daunting, exhausting and at times frustrating.

Prowein started in 1994 with 321 exhibitors and about 1,500 visitors. Last year, it had grown to 6000 exhibitors from 50 countries and 52,000 visitors. It is the show where the business of wine gets done and dusted.

Essentially, there are two ways of ‘doing’ Prowein. One is to take a stand and stay there for your pre-planned wall to wall meetings. As Philippe Guigal told me at the end of Monday evening over a glass of La Doriane ‘my Prowein is being sat in a very small box for three days.’

Mine, however, has been very different. Although Decanter has taken a stand, to collect wines entered into the Decanter World Wine Awards,  it feels as though I have been constantly marching from one end of Prowein to the other, occasionally getting lost, bemused and increasingly sore-footed. Next year, I’m going to get into training weeks in advance.

And I am certainly going to get a FitBit app just to measure exactly how many miles I have walked.

Happily though, Prowein is not all about scheduled meetings. There are the delightful chance encounters. Yesterday, I bumped into DecanterChina’s Li Demei at a Bordeaux tasting. And on the Sunday night I met the delightful Jaime Araujo for the first time. Last night at dinner, I sat next to a young Olivia Barry of Jim Barry wines who’d brought a stunningly good bottle of their Armagh Shiraz 2012. At Prowein, you’re never far away from some very good wine.

Moreover, there are the occasions when you end up chatting to a complete stranger. On the tram back from the show, I got talking to a young German winemaker from Baden called Bettina Schumann. As the tram slowly rumbled back to Dusseldorf, she told me her story about leaving Berlin and buying some land in Kaiserstuhl, where she makes Pinot Noir.

‘I’ve had a really good day – because however, good my wine is, I still need to sell it. And there’s no better place to do that than Prowein,’ she told me. ‘And how good is your wine, I asked her. ‘Well, to find out you’ll have to come and try it,’ she replied before giving me her card and writing down her stand number.

If her wine is half as good as her marketing skills, I suspect I am in for a very pleasant tasting.



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