ProWein 2023: new trends and new standards
ProWein 2023 was so big and all-embracing, that it certainly took us some time to process the impressions and structure them into a clear picture of an outstanding and innovative event. According to the organizers, “the entire who’s who of the industry was present at this year’s ProWein”, and this is probably the best way to describe the recent fair.
Some impressive numbers:
— 14 Halls
— approximately 6000 exhibitors
— 86% of the exhibitors were of international origin, coming from more than 60 countries; the biggest numbers: Italy – 1471, France — 947, Germany — 717, Spain — 693 exhibitors;
— 49,000 trade visitors from 141 countries represented retail and food service/hospitality.
The organizers claim that visitors’ decision-making competence set new standards: according to their estimates, around ⅔ of ProWein 2023 visitors were involved in purchasing decisions. These numbers, combined with the powerful media buzz, not only make ProWein and unforgettable experience both for participants and guests, but also prove it to be a #1 wine & spirits event in the world, and one of the hottest spots for networking, marketing and promotion of wines, spirit and related products, as well as wine tourism, for closing business deals and for bringing industry trends into the spotlight.
Trend 1: “looking for something special”
“I don’t think the world needs even more Merlot or Cabernet”, says Thomas Brandl of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and xenos.com, and this is, of course, a bright metaphor, not meaning to devalue the world’s most popular red varieties. However, we must admit that the demand for wines from new, emerging or just not-so-well-known wine regions is growing, first and foremost, among professionals and influencers, who communicate it directly to consumers. Wines from India, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Korea, Mexico, Peru and Equador may still sound pretty exotic, while names like Turkey, Slovenia, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia etc are no longer a novelty sensation at the wine market, welcoming more “returning” visitors who are tracking their progress throughout several years. However, the pavilions hosting these participants were buzzing all three days of the fair, showing the significant interest.
Wines of Ukraine, for the first time in the history of ProWein, presented the national stand hosting several wineries from all over Ukraine, including the WTA nominees: Beykush, 46 Parallel Wine, Villa Tinta and Stakhovsky Wines, as well a bright “debutant”, Big Wines by Vinos de La Luz (also a WTA nominee), with their first Ukrainian release, BIG WINES BIG ART limited edition Ivan Marchuk 2020. Another WTA nominee, SHABO Family Winery, participated in the fair with their own stand. The company has been doing this for several years, and they claim that ProWein 2023 was different: “From questions like “Ukraine, but where is it?” we’ve evolved to “Yes, SHABO, what new do you have to offer this year?” The fundamental achievement is indisputable — we are proud to represent our country at the international wine stage, and, this time, sharing it with our colleagues was very special to us. It was a truly historic moment — a showcase of Ukrainian wines at the national stand of Ukraine. Ukrainian wines once again presented themselves with dignity and definitely increased the circle of their international fans.”
The feedback Ukrainian wines were receiving from guests of the national stand were very positive too. Carsten M. Stammen, Senior Marketing Project & Account Manager at Wein-Plus Solutions (Germany) commented: “My first encounter with wines and winegrowers from Ukraine at ProWein 2023 was an impressive and encouraging one. I met ambitious people who know what they do and who have to struggle a lot due to the criminal war of aggression Russia imposed on the country, and I tasted wines that were very convincing. There is no doubt that the well-known varieties will facilitate the access to Ukrainian wines for new customers. However, I think that the most promising strategy for the Ukrainian wine industry will be to focus on regional and indigenous grapes such as Telti-Kuruk, Odessa Black or the Georgian Rkatsiteli which is widespread there: only grape varieties like these bear the chance for Ukraine to distinguish itself in the worldwide wine market. The world won’t need more replaceable Chardonnay or Merlot, but wine enthusiasts are curious about authentic, pleasing wines with character that have been made from traditional varieties—and I had the pleasure tasting that Ukraine is offering some very good examples of this kind.”
Thomas Brandl says: “Many visitors of ProWein were pretty much surprised that Ukraine, despite the current war situation, for the first time ever was present with a joint booth – and by the quality of many wines there. I’m glad I could help my Ukrainian friends to gain awareness and visibility before and during ProWein! I knew the country from several visits between 2007 and 2019, and I’m impressed by the rise in quality of the wines especially now, although war damages in some wineries didn’t make it easy to get healthy grapes in at the right time and to process them.”
Trend 2: The triumph of crosses and hybrids
Grape varieties with higher resistance properties, originating from the crossing of several varieties of Vitis vinifera, or crossing them with other genus Vitis species, requiring no pesticides and, therefore, ideal for sustainable viticulture, are already widespread in Europe, and become the next big thing in America. In Germany the wines they produce are called PIWI wines. The abbreviation “PIWI” stands for fungus-resistant vines. Until very recently, wines produced from PIWI grapes, such as Sauvignac, Souvignier Gris, Mouscaris, Solaris, Cabernet Cortis, Prior etc, were considered to be less elegant and less valuable than those produced from the classic European varieties. However, the times are changing, along with the climate, the vines of PIWI varieties are gaining brighter terroir qualities, and winemakers are perfecting their skills of working with these grapes, bringing out the best in them. Enjoying quality wine is being revolutionized. Germany is the leader in this process, now that German winemakers have been dealing with these varieties for several years. Other wine making countries, such as Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Spain and Canada, are catching up.
Trend 3: Zero-alcohol wines.
Yes. They are present in our life now, whether we want it or not. The 0-alcohol trend in wines is growing, despite controversial opinions and heated discussions within the industry. Shall we, or shall we not consider this product a wine? How does it correlate with another significant trend of the last few years — sustainable winemaking? ProWein, in collaboration with Meininger Verlag, the organizer of Mundus Vini tasting competition, have solved this problem elegantly by creating the World of Zero Tasting Area at ProWein 2023 in Hall 1, which allowed visitors to obtain comprehensive and efficient information about this upsurge segment. Organizers offered various lectures and panel discussions on the topic held right on the spot. And, of course, the most important part of the World of Zero was the tasting zone. “We are very pleased that we can offer this on-trend topic a perfect platform at ProWein 2023. The annual, professional alcohol-free tastings as well as the editorial competence of Meininger Verlag form the basis for this successful partnership”, says Michael Degen, Executive Director Messe Düsseldorf, summarizing ProWein’s collaboration with Meininger Verlag.
Trend 4: Focus on education
Vasylysa Yilmaz, DipWSET student (Turkey), was very happy to see many educational opportunities offered by ProWein 2023 exhibitors. She believes it to be very important: “ The general trend of conscious consumption requires more knowledge both from consumer and retailer. Consumers are interested in the story behind a bottle: they want to know more not only about the brand, but also about regions, grapes, winemakers, their techniques and families who (and why) created this wine. Recently the story sells even better than ever. In my opinion, the most trendy exhibitors of ProWein 2023 were those offering educational opportunities. And the most impressive ones (and I believe – most helpful for future sales) – with the best storytellers. Austrian and Greek wines were presented during workshops by a great storyteller and expert Caro Maurer MW. Wines of Hungary were so lucky to have Rose Murray Brown MW to tell their stories with a passion! The stories that conscious consumers would definitely like to listen to.”
Master classes and commented tastings held by wineries and winemaking associations at ProWein 2023 were multiple, and of extremely high quality. Austrian Wine hosted, in total, 14 master classes engaging international experts, such as Master of Wine Caro Maurer who presented the diversity of the Austrian flagship variety, Grüner Veltliner, or Marc Almert (ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2019), highlighting some outstanding Austrian gems outside the country’s mainstream grape varieties. Master of Wine Anne Krebiehl dedicated her masterclass to Rosé Sekt Austria, a sparkling wine with protected designation of origin. Sebastian Russold (Best Sommelier of Germany 2021/22) and Sabine Bauer-Wolf from Austrian Wine lectured on environmentally friendly viticulture approaches to viticulture in Austria. Other renowned speakers included Maitre Sommelier Gerhard Retter, Anne Krebiehl MW, “Deutschlands Bester Sommelier 2021/22” Sebastian Russold and the World’s Best Sommelier 2019 Marc Almert.
Wines of Portugal probably set the record of holding 19 master classes, all of them demonstrating full attendance. Grape varieties, wine regions, vinification aspects and other topics were covered by well-known experts: Konstantin Baum MW, Caro Maurer MW, wine journalist / Portugal expert David Schwarzwälder, wine writer Christina Fischer, chef Patrick Jabs, wine writer Sebastian Bordthäuser, as well Wines of Portugal’s own stars — Wine Educator Sofia Salvador, Rubina Vieira, Head of Continuing Education at Madeira Wine Institute, winemaker Tiago Macena and sommelier Carine Patricio.
Wines of Moldova, the WTA 2023 nominee in several categories and the sponsor of the first WTA release, held the keynote workshop discussing how Moldova, a small yet dynamic country, can compete with the giants of wine. Robert Joseph of Meininger’s Wine Business International, who has been the Jury member for WTA since 2021, led a panel discussion entitled “Wine of Moldova – 10 Revolutionary Years of Building a National Wine Brand”, engaging Elizaveta Breahna, Interim Director of Oficiul Național al Viei și Vinului, Caroline Gilby MW, Wojciech Bońkowski (Poland’s first Master of Wine), and Diana Lazar, representative of a USAID Moldova.
Our own presentation of Wine Travel Awards and a commented wine tasting of 6 Ukrainian wines, produced by the WTA nominee wineries, was, literally, the last seminar of ProWein 2023, and we were happy to see the tasting room full! We are very grateful to our guests for their attention and questions, as well as for the support and interest in Ukrainian winemaking.
Trend 5: Show must go on
Apart from being extremely business-like and efficient, ProWein is becoming more entertaining. Open tasting zones and lounge bars pop up as alternatives to the classic booths. Exhibitors invite DJs and musicians, pairing their performances with the tastings. Making a show literally becomes part of the showcase.
The fair attracts celebrities, and not only those of the wine world. Kylie Minogue, Australian megastar singer and actress, and, as she calls herself, “a beginner winemaker”, brought her award-winning wines to ProWein 2023. Kylie was mingling with the wine crowd, meeting with fellow winemakers whom she considers to be real stars, and hosting tastings at her stand for many of the world’s leading wine buyers.
Seeing Kylie Minogue at the fair was a pleasant surprise. And we do hope that Brad Pitt himself will be presenting his Miraval wines at ProWein 2024, because, after all, nothing seems to be impossible for the organizers of the world-famous wine & spirits expo.
Thank you, ProWein, and more to come!
Author: Victoria Makarova