Go Pro: a definitive guide to this year’s ProWein

When it comes to trade shows, Germany has lucked out. For the past quarter of a century, ProWein, in Düsseldorf, has played host to the single greatest gathering of winemakers, distillers, sommeliers and buyers the world has seen.

Anyone who’s anyone in the trade remembers their first ProWein. It’s an unmissable opportunity to connect with key players in the drinks sector, be that gin, vodka, Chianti or beer. Since its inception in 1994, the annual pilgrimage to the Rhine-side city has become a firm fixture in the drinks trade calendar.

Now celebrating its 25th birthday, the Davos of the wine world has evolved to celebrate the once-burgeoning, now-booming craft beer and spirits sectors. Pitching up in the mammoth Messe Düsseldorf this month, the latest event will feature no fewer than 6,800 wineries from over 60 countries, an increase of 100 from last year. More than 60,000 visitors are expected to descend on the fair for three days of targeted networking, tastings and conferences, but the show’s seasoned organisers have learned how to make efficient use of the space, and have packed the additional 100 exhibitors into their pre-existing event areas.

The sheer size and scale of the event sets it apart from most wine shows, offering veterans the chance to complete a month’s worth of networking in days, if not hours. Old World giants meet undiscovered gems, small-time brewers strike deals with big-time buyers, and saké specialists bring their traditional wares onto the global stage. “It’s a very fragmented industry,” says Marius Berlemann, head of the fair, “which is why events like this are so important for building a network.”

Leading trade show

As ever at ProWein, the Old World dominates, with the majority of producers hailing from France and Italy (300 exhibitors in total will come from both countries, Berlemann says), but while it is the world’s leading wine trade show, its mastermind says his team “doesn’t sit back and relax. We have excellent coverage in Europe, but the US is one of our key markets, as well as Australia and New Zealand. We have to work hard to make ourselves visible and essential to those buyers.”

Such is the success of Berlemann’s seven-year stint as the exhibition’s global head of wine and spirits, he has been named general manager of Messe Düsseldorf Shanghai Co. Ltd, with project and HR responsibility for the Messe Düsseldorf portfolio in China.

A lot of work goes into pulling off the feat that is the social infrastructure of the fair. “You can say a lot is happening in the background with offering hotel rooms and logistics,” Berlemann says. Düsseldorf, known for its links to fashion and art, is also known for its trade shows, “but in terms of visitors, ProWein is much larger than any others in the city”.

Back for this year will be ProWein’s “special focal points”. A large tasting zone presenting the winning wines from the spring edition of the Mundus Vini wine competition will be on free pour at the show, while the Champagne Lounge will also return this year, presenting the wine of 40 houses, as well as around 150 brands in ProWein’s wider Champagne area.

The Fizz Lounge, meanwhile, which focuses on cocktails and apéritifs, will place a special emphasis on the issue of zero waste, looking at ways to reduce waste of raw materials and optimise the goods cycle at the bar.

Also back this year is the organic wine area in Hall 13, where visitors can explore the innovations in sustainable drinks production happening in France, Italy, Germany and the world at large.

There will also be its Organic World show, dedicated to organic viticulture and winemaking, but the event has evolved with the times, with the addition of an Organic Lounge and lecture area.

Industry members can often feel confined to the dimensions of the exhibition space, and the ProWein team know this. Also coming back for 2019 is ProWein Goes City. Selected partners from local restaurants and bars, hotel businesses and wine retailers organise exciting and enjoyable events in Düsseldorf and its surroundings throughout the three-day fair, giving visitors a chance to explore the city and all it has to offer.

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