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Vinexpo surge in overseas visitors

Asian and Russian visitors came to Vinexpo in greater numbers than ever before this year

Overseas delegates accounted for more than one third of overall visitors, with a greater number than ever before from India, China, Thailand, Russia and Japan. Of the 5,000 biggest wine buyers worldwide, more than 1,500 came to Vinexpo.

The official figures for Vinexpo claim visitor numbers were 3% up on last year, at just over 50,000, although the feeling among exhibitors was that the salon was less busy than in previous years.

There were a few notable absences. Moet et Chandon didn’t take a stand this year, and Friexenet was present only through its subsidiary Yvon Mau.

The Australians were also absent, as they were in 2005. The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation pulled out after the notorious ‘Hall 3 incident’ in 2003, when air conditioning broke down in 40-degree temperatures.

Chief executive Robert Beynat said that despite his flying over to Adelaide to persuade the AWBC to attend, ‘they simply have no money to come.’

Wines of Chile director Michael Cox was also less than happy with the air conditioning in the main hall. ‘The further you get from the centre of the hall, the warmer it gets,’ he said.

On other stands, Gallo’s and South Africa’s wine shipments were held up at customs, eventually arriving after a few days.

Wines of South Africa spokesperson Dalene Steyn told decanter.com that business had been lost, especially in terms of Russian and Far Eastern buyers who had visited earlier in the week. ‘We are going home to consider our options,’ she said.

Amid reports that the worldwide wine and spirits market generated retail sales of US$277bn in 2005, and predictions that it will rise to about $300bn by 2010, Jean Marie Chadronnier pointed out that the host nation was losing out on much of this positive news.

‘This year’s Vinexpo has been a confirmation of the vitality of the sector,’ Chadronnier said at the final press conference. ‘Now we have to re-conquer the French market and give our producers back their pride.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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