Just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Düsseldorf, the city that hosts the biggest and arguably most effective wine trade show in the world a show that, through its very effectiveness, makes hunting trips to vineyards almost superfluous nowadays.
We have visited for over ten years and have observed its evolution into the monster it has become.
So what did we find?
Villa Dria, Cotes de Gascogne.
Really exciting blends of Colombard/Sauvignon, Chardonnay/Gros Manseng, Merlot/Cabernet with beautiful presentations in heavy bottles. The prices are keen and these are going to be on their way very soon.
Chateau du Vieux Parc, Corbières
The Cuvée Pierre Mialhe has not really worked for us and I think the reason may be the price/quality ratio is slightly wrong. The Selection pair of red and white are a lot dearer but a lot better and I think this is the direction in which we need to head. And the “Ethan” top red cuvée is exceptional and we will get some in.
Collin Bourisset Southern Burgundy
Met Gregory the new boss and had a slightly weird meeting but discussed some good stuff. We have noticed a general improvement in quality over the last couple of years and it seems there are good reasons for this. We looked at a new, nicely labeled Gamay Noir specifically designed to appease Beaujolais haters. And also a Viré Clessé of very good quality. Let’s face it, most of us can’t afford to drink Cote d’Or wines any more and Macon is an excellent source of good, affordable juice.
Chateau Escarelles Provence
We already buy our delicious Palm Rosé from this producer and are very happy with it. But they make some higher-end wines too including some seriously excellent Rosés which we owe to our customers to ship. Watch out for these very soon
Met our beautiful Rioja producers whose wines we love. Couple of new things but we have no real problems to solve here.
Visited the Cuatro Rayas stand. They are a big producer (by our standards) but we very much enjoy a couple of decent house wines from them, Verdejo and Tempranillo.
What a shock we got though. Even though I had been prepared by an earlier email, I was not really ready for 61 Vermouth the first ever 100% Verdejo Vermouth. Over ice, this could just be the drink of the summer. Pimms? Pffff.
And almost as an aside, they have made a Sherry. In Rueda. From 50/50 Verdejo and Palomino Fino. For legal reasons, they can’t call it Sherry (wrong area) so instead they have called it Dorado and the word Solera appears on the label.
I liked both these products a lot and am buying.
Cava Codorniu Raventos
We have a little gap in our trade portfolio for a mini, single serve sparkling Rosé. A wine to sit alongside our excellent 200ml Prosecco on a pub’s list for if they don’t think they can shift a whole bottle by the glass while it is still fresh.
And we have traded with this ancient (17th oldest in the world in any industry) Company previously. Although some of their wines appear in supermarkets, some don’t including their mini pink Cava. Quality extraordinarily good and coming to a wholesaler near you soon….
Lots to do here. Mainly because we have some Italian restaurateur customers thirsty for new things but also because actually, vinously, Italy is about twenty countries and the scope for variety here is enormous.
These guys make our amazing Vista Collina Pinot Grigio, our own label for wholesale only (sorry you non-trade types) and also, several other interesting products like Pinot Nero and Friulano which we occasionally buy.
Giuliano showed us some Ribolla Giallo which is a local still or sparkling white. Nice.
More interesting just now though was a pitch for some bag in box, a thing we have never seriously shipped before. The cost savings over bottled wine look good but I await confirmation. If priced well enough, there is the possibility that we could sell wine “loose” in the wine boutique for take-home.
We love the Arneis and the Barbera from this small producer.
Massimo from Prosecco producer Marsuret introduced us to Beppe from Pescaja a couple of years ago and promised to do the same this year with a Barbaresco maker he knows. We tasted Giulio’s wines and were very impressed; the Estate Barbaresco from his tiny seven hectare plot is everything I want it to be. Whether it’s affordable or not is a personal question. It is expensive compared to lesser wines so you will have to decide when it arrives. Because arrive it will. This wine takes me back vividly to some evenings spent in my old house as a young 20-something bachelor watching a very small telly with a saddo meal for one. The wine rescued the night on more than one occasion.
The challenge with this kind of wine is shipping. Buy less than two pallets and the cost of moving it becomes too high. But buying two pallets of Giulio’s kind of wine would cost tens of thousands of pounds and be enough stock for years.
Massimo has provided a solution though; he is going to oversee stock from three of four of these smaller producers in Northern Italy arriving at a central point for consolidation and shipping. This means we can buy from these fellas but keep the costs low at the same time. Watch this space.
A southern Italian region from where we have never shipped. There exists very small demand here for these wonderful wines but our job increasingly includes creating demand.
We tasted wines from Vini del Falco which include Fiano, Falanghina, Greco di Tufo whites and Aglianico and Taurasi reds. Prices are slightly higher than we would like but the quality is really good and I am devising a way in which to ship perhaps a half pallet. I shall speak with a couple of our important Italian restaurateurs – I will need support with this one.
Actually one of our prime goals for this show was to find a source of wine from this increasingly important country. Our current offer is inadequate and I have had an eye out for a solution for some years. Each time we think we are getting close to one, it falls apart.
Too early to claim that we have found a supplier but the signs are promising; if they can just get the numbers to work for them and us. Again, watch this space.
The messages from this show are clear; good grapes are in short supply at the moment. But for how long?
Quality is only achievable at a fair price.
UK drinkers crave decent wine but fearful importers are reluctant to ship them and on-trade retailers are reluctant to offer them.
A fantastic show visit for us and we will be back next year.
Prowein tips for prospective visitors
If you ain’t trade, you’re not getting in.
Take sandwiches; the catering is all but non-existent, oversubscribed and catastrophically time-consuming.
Take water; there is none available unless you ponce it from an exhibitor. Or euro 9,00 for 75cl in the restaurant if you can be bothered to queue.
Good luck with the registration/ticket-buying process. Proof of bona fide is tough. I find it a stressful trial every year and have a sneaking suspicion that I could get in at the gate if I took some credentials.
Book your hotel with care; Düsseldorf now becomes stupidly expensive during the show. And I mean stupidly. Köln is nice (and cheaper) but a tiresome commute while Münchengladbach is just a bit sad. Haven’t tried Berlin yet.
Make appointments for the important stuff but go freelance for everything else and allow tons of time for inspiration.
Watch the Düsseldorf taxis; get a quote first.
The Altstadt is beery, loud, exciting and can be great fun but the food will be basic and wine hard to get. And booking a table is advisable during the show. Zum Schiffchen is terrific for a Schweinshaxe (almost a whole pig) with beer but Zicke is a small, left-field-superb, slightly off the radar kind of place.