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Millésime BIO 2024 proves popularity with its third post-Covid fair

Montpellier hosted thousands at Millésime BIO 2024, the world’s top organic wine fair, with attendance now reliably above pre-Covid numbers.

Now a fixture in the calendar of organic producers, importers and merchants, Millésime BIO 2024 returned to the Montpellier Exhibition Centre for the last three days of January. Visitors could sample organic wines from 1,500 exhibitors made in 20 different countries. Although, understandably, France was strongly represented, wines arrived from far-flung locations such as Turkey, Argentina and New Zealand.

The show’s attendance – 9,600 visitors to the exhibition centre, as well as those joining its digital session – demonstrates a return to its pre-Covid trajectory. Having achieved 10,000 visitors in 2023, the figures show a return to high, consistent numbers after a difficult few years. Both the 2020 edition (held before Covid-19 restrictions kicked in) and the 2022 edition received around 7,000 visitors. The 2021 edition had been entirely digital.

“We were really happy to see that the start of the fair, 10am on the first day, was crowded,” enthused Jeanne Fabre, president of Millésime BIO 2024. “We have never seen it full so quickly.”

Among the successes this year, a new area dedicated to bulk wine allowed buyers to access these products with ease. The tasting zone emphasised ease and free pouring. Visitors could help themselves, with information then directing them to producers if they needed to discuss further.

“We used to have no volume – for a long, long time actually. We couldn’t answer to the amounts needed by all the monopole countries,” explained Fabre. “But now, it’s a great opportunity because they do want organic wine and we can address that.”

Another of the new initiatives specifically celebrated biodiversity. A contest, ​​titled ‘La Biodiversité, c’est mon domaine!’ sought to find the producers best attending to biodiversity in their organic practice. From more than 100 entries, expert judges selected just nine for commendation, winning gold, silver and bronze awards. Vigne de Cocagne, Famille d’Exéa and Carrière Pradal received the top gold medals.

Looking to the future of the fair, Fabre stressed sustainable growth over rapid expansion. “We are open to every idea that makes us useful for wine producers,” she said. However, she emphasised that her aim is always to attract high quality visitors rather than inflate the fair’s numbers. “We make sure there are only potential buyers and not people from other parts of the trade. Of course it would bring more admissions to the fair, but it doesn’t help the winemaker sell their wine.”

With many trade fairs expanding internationally, Millésime BIO is, in fact, resolutely committed to maintaining its local flavour. The fair welcomes international producers, but is organised by an Occitan interprofessional association, and operates in service of those producers. “It’s not just a matter of not wanting to go further; as well, we want them to come here. It is the only international wine fair that is still in the middle of the vineyards.”

The fair will return in January 2025, with detailed plans arriving later this year. Still, Fabre has one piece of advice that can pre-empt the eventual announcements: “It’s difficult when it’s such a big space. You need to have good shoes.”

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