Lameyse: Vinexpo Bordeaux is not dead; it’s different and exciting

Despite rumours to the contrary, Vinexpo will be holding a wine fair in Bordeaux in 2021, which will revert to its traditional timing in June, as the new CEO declares the fair “not dead”, but “different and exciting”.

Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO of Vinexpo

During a lunch meeting with the drinks business on Friday, Rodolphe Lameyse, who became CEO of the fair organiser in April this year, made it clear that Vinexpo will always host a drinks trade event in Bordeaux, even though some were led to believe that this year’s fair would be its last in the city.

“Vinexpo Bordeaux is not dead,” he stated, before commenting, “at the top of my job description, in bold, in red, and in font size 18, is ‘to keep a show in Bordeaux.”

Not only that, but he said that the exhibition will move back to June, its usual timing, having tried holding the fair this year in mid-May for the first time – a decision made by the organisers to reduce the risk of the show clashing with a heatwave (as Vinexpo Bordeaux did most famously in 2003 and more recently in 2017).

Such news also put a stop to another suggested future for the Bordeaux fair, which was to hold a smaller annual event during en primeurs – the series of new-release tastings that take place across the wine region in early April every year.

The importance of the city to the show organiser’s annual calendar of fairs – which now includes exhibitions in Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York, and for the first time in February 2020, Paris too – hails from the fact that the main shareholder of Vinexpo is the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, which created the fair in 1981.

While the new Vinexpo Paris event will be held every year in February, Vinexpo Bordeaux will remain a biennial event, held in the first week of June, with Vinexpo Hong Kong held at a similar time in those years when there is no Bordeaux show.

Nevertheless, Lameyse also said that the nature of Vinexpo Bordeaux in 2021 will be significantly altered.

“Vinexpo Bordeaux as you used to know it is over,” he admitted. “It will be different and exciting,” he added.

When then asked by db if Vinexpo would retain a show in Bordeaux if its owner was not the city’s chamber of commerce, he paused, then removed his jumper, noting that it was necessary to take off an outer layer before tackling such a hot topic.

Then he admitted that any “p&l focused” company would have “divested” the Bordeaux show.

Indeed, highlighting the challenge of turning around this particular event, he said, “It would be easier to be a coach of the Bordeaux football team than head of Vinexpo Bordeaux.”

However, he also said that there is “still room for Bordeaux to live within the calendar of events”.

But to succeed, he stressed, “We have to take the elements of the show that are fantastic, and take-out what was really bad.”

Many of the negatives concerned the venue, according to Lameyse, who acknowledged that the exhibition space (called the Congres et Expositions de Bordeaux) was certainly showing signs of age, with underpowered air conditioning and shabby lavatories, while its location on the outskirts of the city had frustrated some visitors because it is a long way from the centre.

As for the positives, so many of these were focused around the wonderful nature of the surrounding wine region; the chance to visit the great châteaux of Bordeaux, and the prestige of the event, which draws high-profile wine personalities.

While he said that the city of Bordeaux had decided to invest in the exhibition centre, he said that it wouldn’t be sufficiently improved by the 2021 show, forcing Lameyse to move the fair from its home since the 80s to the centre of Bordeaux.

“It [the 2021 fair] will happen in the city, across fantastic venues, from the city hall, to the Palais de la Bourse, and the Grand Theatre, all of which are walking distance, all of which are in the magic triangle of Bordeaux, and near the banks of the river, and so it will have a completely different atmosphere,” he said.

“It won’t be a trade fair as you know it, but somewhere between an exposition universelle and a fashion wine week,” he stated.

As for the timing in the first week of June, Lameyse said that Vinexpo had considered holding its Bordeaux show at the same time as primeurs, before realising that “this can’t work”, because this is a time for “key buyers to try wines in the châteaux, and it is not a time for doing business.”

interestingly, he did acknowledge that the problem can be the other way round, with the châteaux enticing people from the exhibition floor to glamorous events at their properties.

“Yes, there used to be an issue with the châteaux stealing the buyers for themselves, so we have a gentleman’s agreement that if there is a party in a château [during Vinexpo Bordeaux 2021], then they must make room for international wines; this is not just for the glory of Bordeaux,” he said.

Summing up, he said, “So the whole purpose of this is to be an image event serving the business, and it will be on a different scale, not 100,000 square metres, but much more condensed.”

“I’m not talking about 1,000 exhibitors but around 100, with 200 the maximum; we want to limit the scope,” he added.

While this new-format Vinexpo Bordeaux will be for the trade, Lameyse said he will allow the public the chance to taste a selection of wines on the Sunday afternoon before the main event, which will then run for professionals over the following three days.

As for a name for the revamped fair, he said,” I don’t want to call it a ‘show’, because it is not really a show, but I don’t know what to call it yet.”

Speaking more generally about Vinexpo, having mentioned a number of changes to the team, including the departure of the sales director, and the impending departure of is communications director, he said that he was embarking on a major shake-up of the business.

“If you look at the wine shows of the world, then the one company that has made huge changes in its positioning and team is Vinexpo, we are charging heavily.”

Finally, implying that Vinexpo intends to outsmart others in the same sector, he asked, rhetorically, “The question is, are the competition changing too?”

Vinexpo Bordeaux 2021 – what we know so far…

Timing: June (first week), held every two years

Format: A 3-day trade event from Monday to Wednesday (with a pre-fair consumer tasting on Sunday).

Location: Bordeaux city centre (spread over several venues from the Palais de la Bourse to the Grand Theatre).

Scale: Maximum 200 exhibitors

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