ProWein is a massive wine and spirits fair, held each year in Dusseldorf, Germany. It’s enormous. 6200 exhibitors, and 55 000 trade visitors. I’ve just returned, and these are some of my impressions. But it’s impossible for any one person to be able to give anything more than a personal perspective gained by merely scratching the surface of such a juggernaut of a fair.
There’s lots to do at Prowein. Despite its size, and its focus on business and doing deals, there are many opportunities to taste interesting wine. As long as you plan carefully – and failing to plan can result in hours spent wandering between the various halls – then as a journalist you can get really good work done.
My main reason for attending, though, was paying work. If you get gigs to present, or host tastings, or take part in seminars, then it makes the cost of attending worthwhile. Because this can be an expensive fair. Having so many people all crowd into a fairly compact city sends accommodation prices through the stratosphere. It also overwhelms the transport system and the local restaurants, particularly at peak times.
Last year my main gig was with New Zealand; this year I worked mainly for Canada. Each day I conducted a seminar on a Canadian wine region in the forum area, ably assisted by a different Canuck each session. On Sunday we looked at the wines of BC with top local journalist Treve Ring, on Monday it was Ontario with Magdalena Kaiser of Wines of Ontario, and on Tuesday it was sparkling wines of Nova Scotia with winemaker Peter Gamble. All the sessions were really well supported, showing that folks are interested in what’s going on in Canada. Then, each afternoon, I took a group on a tour around the 22 producers on the Canada stand, picking out a range of wines each time that reflected on the country’s diversity.
I also did a session at the forum for aluminium closure manufacturer Amcor, who own the screw cap brand Stelvin. This involved interviewing four producers who were early adopters of screw caps in Austria and Germany about their experiences: with over 10 years’ experience each, how did they find their wines evolving? Were they pleased they’d made the switch?
In between these commitments, I tasted.
I spent quite a bit of time looking at Champagne and sparkling wine. Fizz is, I reckon, a wine style with a big future. I tried quite a few Champagnes that were new to me, including some lovely bottles at the section dedicated to the Special Club (Tresors) grower Champagnes. The distinctive thing about Champagne is the large range of styles, which become ever more evident the more you taste.
English fizz seemed to be making a big impression. There were lots of really good producers here, including Hambledon, Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Gusborne, Hattingley Valley and Hush Heath. It’s an exciting time for English sparkling wine, and it’s so good to see the best wines being shown to the outside world.
I also spent some time focusing on Provence rosé. There was a really good tasting station with a self-pour of 70 or so different wines from the 2015 vintage. It was a great chance to look at the different styles and quality levels of this wine style that’s gaining a great deal of traction (a 37% increase in sales by value in the UK in 2015). At a busy trade fair, these self pour tasting opportunities are quite welcome, because you can get a great overview in a relatively short time.
There are many seminars; I attended just one. It was a seminar on Australian Grenache, led by Wine Australia’s Mark Davidson. It showed just how interesting Grenache is when it’s handled a bit less like Shiraz, and allowed to express its true, more elegant nature. Aussie Grenache is an exciting category at the moment, and Mark picked some excellent wines.
I’ll be back next year, hopefully. Despite the problems associated with its size, such as walking 15 km a day and having to avoid peak times for anything, there’s a lot of fun to be had at ProWein. If nothing else, the sheer scale of the global wine industry on show here reminds us that we must be humble in the face of wine.