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Wine Woos World as Trade Fair Opens

The world's biggest wine fair, Vinexpo, opens in Bordeaux next week safe in the knowledge that the number of wine-drinkers worldwide is on the rise, notably in the United States and in emerging markets such as China, Russia, Brazil and India.

Vinexpo, which gathers 144 nations and opens June 18, is also comforted by news that the world wine surplus may soon be eliminated, thus driving up prices. A survey carried out for Vinexpo 2007 by the London-based International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR) predicts global wine sales will increase 45 percent by 2010 and production by 41 percent.

"This is a key finding," said Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo. "It means demand exceeds supply. It also means that any wine surplus should be eliminated."

Beynat predicted that the current world surplus of about 30 million hectolitres would be soaked up by sales, and cautioned against the European Union's current focus on intensive pulling up -- or grubbing up, as it is known -- of vines as part of its new reform package.

Beynat believes the matter must be decided on a regional basis. Other predictions for 2010 from the study include the entry of China and Russia, at 10th and 8th place, in the world's top 10 wine consuming nations, and the emergence of America as the world's number one.

The study reckons that by 2010 Americans will be drinking 27.3 million hectolitres of wine, 12.3 percent of world consumption, at a value of 22.75 billion dollars. At the moment the US is third, behind Italy and France.

Although Vinexpo is in name a wine and spirits trade fair, spirits only take up about 12 percent of exhibitor space. However the survey contained good news for vodka, tequila, cognac and whisky producers, indicating these were the leading growth categories. Gin is the only category in decline.

Other industry issues due to be delved into during Vinexpo, which winds up June 21, include responsible drinking, getting wine to new consumers in emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, the growth of wine tourism, and the ever ongoing cork versus screwcap debate. Of note will be the increasing numbers of organic and biodynamic wines -- almost non-existent at Vinexpo 2005 -- as well as issues such as eco-friendly packaging, reducing carbon emissions and sustainable development of vineyards and winemaking. Vinexpo is held every two years, and controversies from the last two shows are still causing ripples.

In 2003, an unprecedented national heat wave plus an air conditioning breakdown in the temporary hall housing most of the "new world" producers left temperatures in which tasting wine, or doing business, became practically impossible. This year, all those who suffered in 2003 were offered 20 percent discounts to return. Although producers from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa will be on hand this year, two national bodies, the New Zealand Winegrowers and the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, are not returning.

Wines of South Africa (WOSA) agreed to take up the discount after a personal visit from Jean-Marie Chadronnier, Vinexpo president. But WOSA's Dalene Steyn said it had been a difficult decision, and that Vinexpo's service orientation was behind other trade shows such as Germany's Prowein and London's International Wine and Spirits Fair.

Another hangover, now cured, was the exclusion in 2005 of the American E J Gallo Winery, one of the worlds largest winemakers, from the exclusive Club des Marques area by French champagne makers. They resented Gallo's labelling of a top selling sparkling wine as "Andre Champagne" when it has no connection to the actual region.

This year the Club des Marques has been abolished for a new area and barriers to inclusion are now longer allowed. In the new exclusive area -- entry fees start at 48,000 euros -- Gallo will finally take its place alongside 12 other top name producers including Taittinger, Lanson and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. This year's show covers 41,000 square metres, the biggest since it started in 1981 with 6,885 square metres, and local hotels and restaurants are preparing to make a financial killing thanks to the 2,400 exhibitors and 45,000 visitors from 144 different countries.

Vinexpo 2007 will officially be opened Monday June 18 by the newly-appointed French ministers for the Environment, Alain Juppe, and Agriculture and Fisheries, Christine Lagarde.


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