Vinisud - Passionnément Méditerranéen
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  • Brent Butler (USA) / LOT18
    « It’s a chance to connect directly with suppliers and producers around the world, talk to them one on one, learn what they do, they can learn what we do, and plan out special projects together. I will definitively be back, for sure!”
  • Ari Gorenstein (Brazil) / E-VINO COMERCIO DE VINHOS LTDA
    “Every year, organization of the show is impeccable and even better than the previous event. We also enjoy some wonderful reunions. Our entire stay in France during Vinisud is very productive and efficient. We are already beginning to reap the rewards”.
  • Wen Ping Hiu (China) / SHENZEN BO-AO WINES CO LTD
    All is very very wonderful, perfect”
  • Jan Stork  (Germany) / WEIN STORK GMBH & CO. KG
    We had a good time in Montpellier with lot’s of new contacts. A very good atmosphere for professional working. We ordered a lot. For more effectiv working on top it would be great if ViniSud and Millesime Bio will start discussing again for a trade fair at one place. Especially for the foreign customers as us, it would be better.
  • Ruslan Gorbach (Ukraine) / METRO CASH & CARRY
    “This is the first time I have been here and I have already found some new suppliers. These are clients that will be able to respond to the needs of the Ukrainian market both in volume and quality terms.”
  • Orlando Jimenez (Colombia) / IMPORTADORA LIBATION
    We have already initiated some business with at least 10 wineries exhibiting at Vinisud. These are some excellent opportunities that we need to consider. The first samples have already been delivered.     



  • Jean-Claude Mas (Languedoc) / DOMAINES PAUL MAS
    “For me, Vinisud is a way of connecting with buyers from around the world. At the same time, it allows them to come and see the region and awaken all five senses with everything the region has to offer, both through its wines and everything related to it. Wine is not just a product, it is also an experience. Vinisud has to be the standard-bearer for Languedoc and wines from the South of France. I produce wines in Languedoc and will continue to do so – I will be staying in Languedoc and I need communication media such as Vinisud for engaging with the trade. The greatest experience I had at Vinisud from a sales perspective was when I was starting out. It was with my agent and together we developed the Dutch market really well. It was a truly great experience, linked to a great story, and it made me who I am today. What makes me want to come back every time is that I have realised that the show just keeps getting better. I have just one thing to say to the team at Vinisud – keep up the good work, keep taking it to new heights“.
  • Bernard Magrez (toutes régions) / BERNARD MAGREZ
    “I come to Vinisud because I learn a lot. I spend time with top quality wine growers and merchants and engaging with them is a rewarding experience. Changing the show to an annual format is an improvement because distributors across the world are used to travelling and if some of them can’t make it one year, they can come the next. Consequently, you don’t tend to miss many worthwhile people. Vinisud is a wonderful initiative for France – you only have to look at the number of foreigners here. It is extremely well organized and from a sales perspective, they are extremely efficient. If there is one word I would say to the team, it would have to be – Bravo!”
  • Gérard Bertrand (Languedoc) / LES VINS GERARD BERTRAND
    “Vinisud epitomizes the global emergence of Languedoc-Roussillon and the South of France. Languedoc-Roussillon is now one of the five most important regions in the world. It was challenging in the beginning but we are now finally starting to ride the wave of success, buoyed by our extensive range of wines and in particular our rosés, our terroir wines and the organic bottlings we sell worldwide. We really are world experts in wellness and sensible, quality drinking. Vinisud is an opportunity to share the spirit and friendliness of wine growers from the South of France. It’s also the right time to present the latest vintage. The team at Vinisud has done an amazing job for many years. I hope they can bring together all strands of the Southern French wine industry to make the show’s 2018 vintage a lively one!”
  • Laurent Dal Zovo (Rousillon) / DOMAINE VIAL-MAGNERES
    “We have just finished and are pretty delighted! Visitors were quite qualified – there were a lot of wine merchants and restaurateurs. I think we have done quite a lot of business so we’re very satisfied. See you next year!”
  • Marc Benassis (Roussillon) / CHATEAU DES HOSPICES DE CANET
    “This was the first time I took part in Vinisud. Overall it went well. Obviously we will gauge this over time but we made some contacts and I hope they will pan out. Discovering the show and connecting with importers was a wonderful experience for me”.
  • Françoise Antech Gazeau (Languedoc)/ ANTECH LIMOUX
    “We are delighted, Vinisud was an excellent show for us. We have been coming since the outset and even went to Nimes for Vinicom, right at the beginning. We really met some very professional people who were here to work. There were a lot of export visitors which is extremely important for us because around 80% of our sales are exports. We saw good clients, professionals and people who were here to do business. My only regret, and it’s one that most of my clients expressed too, is that Millésime Bio and Vinisud are not held at the same time and in the same place. It would make everyone’s life much easier.”
  • Basile Saint Germain (Languedoc) / DOMAINE LES AURELLES
    “Making the show annual is an obvious choice – we produce a vintage a year. The quality of the buyers was not lacking and we made some good quality, effective contacts. The only negative side was the irritation voiced by buyers who felt they had been shown a lack of respect – or even been taken hostage – by the departure of Millésime Bio. Everyone bemoaned the waste of time, energy and money when they could finally have had the two shows side by side. The disregard shown by buyers and wine growers is anything but ecological, not to mention the carbon footprint. Everybody loses out – the buyers, producers, the region and Montpellier.”
  • Marine Dubard (Sud-Ouest) / VIGNOBLES DUBARD
    “We left the show delighted by the number of promising encounters and by the quality of visitors and their level of commitment. We welcomed a number of wholesalers and agents and above all, met more foreigners – from Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and the USA – than we’d hoped for”.
  • Marie-Clothilde Bailbé (Roussillon) / CHATEAU LAS COLLAS
     “We established contacts with importers from Denmark, China, Japan, Holland and Sweden during the show. Obviously, the essential next step is that orders follow… I don’t understand why Vinisud and Millésime Bio separated when there is room for both… To be honest, even for importers it’s a rush – they have to be at two shows at the same time. It’s not manageable.”
  • Marie Dupuis / OENOTOURISME.COM
    “Our start-up chose Vinisud as its first event and we are delighted. We were in the wine tourism hall, an area that thronged with creative people and innovative projects. Many visitors and future partners came and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of visitor attendance. See you next year!”
  • Rosó Gabarró / TORELLO CAVA - Spain (Barcelona)
    “Congratulations for your excellent organization and for the number of importers you managed to attract to Vinisud. In terms of the range of trade and industry members, it was a very interesting show for us. We didn’t stop!”
  • Nicola Thornton / SPANISH PALATE – Spain (nationwide)
     “Our experience in 2017 was really, really positive, both in terms of the quality and quantity of buyers, which increases every time. We will most definitely be coming back next year. This is a good time of the year for presenting new products to existing distributors and importers and also for securing new clients who come in ‘discovery mode’ to find new wines for the year”.
  • Jon Zubeldia / ASTOBIZA - Basque country
    “As the manager of Astobiza, I want to thank you for the attention you paid us before and during the show. On our stand, we were able to meet buyers from more countries than we had expected. We met some interesting people and were able to present our wines and get instant feedback. Business opportunities were confirmed over the three-day event as potential buyers returned to our stand. Also, several buyers came straight from the “ Palais Méditerranéen “ tasting area”.
  • Mathieu BLET / LA CAVE MAVROMMATIS - Greece
    Very satisfied about our second participation to Vinisud Wine fair in partnership with Wine Mosaïc. The quality of exchanges make us hope some great market opportunities for our selection of autochthons Greek grape variety. Foreigners’ buyers were strongly present at this edition (Scandinavia, USA, UK, JAPAN, UK...) as well as numerous contact and interests from national French buyers, sommeliers and wine merchants. At Vinisud we take the opportunity to present our selection of Greek new vintages wines early in the new year and we strongly plan to join next edition in 2018.



3 buzzwords sum up Vinisud 2017  - expertise, discovery and sharing, along with 1 ambition - to be the international showcase for Southern wines for 3 days and 1 motto: ”Passionately Mediterranean”. A vision shared by all stakeholders involved…

  • “Since its creation, Vinisud has played a key role in promoting Languedoc wines. Every edition is a win-win situation for our companies which meet buyers with a growing interest in our appellations. For Languedoc, it’s the first professional gathering event of the year, an opportunity to show off our new vintages in our own backyard. With 5 months still to go before doors open, around a hundred companies have already registered”, explains Jérôme Villaret, Executive Officer - Joint Trade Council for Languedoc AOC and Sud de France PGI wines.
  • “The timing of the Vinisud exhibition suits us well. After the end-of-year celebrations, it’s an opportunity for us to introduce the year’s new releases to our traditional clientele (agents and hospitality industry wholesalers). It also enables us to preview the new vintage, which is officially launched in early March. Where previously we mainly met our French clients here, the move to an annual event will allow us to meet up with European customers”, points out Thomas de Lagarde, Directeur Général Vin – Wine General Manager at Vignobles de Berne.
  • “In recent years, Spanish wine exports have experienced a meteoric rise, with the quality and variety of the product offering as the main drivers of this growth. The presence of Spanish bodegas at major international wine fairs is vital in supporting this trend, as it raises the profile and promotes the value of their products. In 2016, Vinisud hosted a large contingent of bodegas, some of them exhibiting together at the Spanish Wines stand, highlighting the presence of Spain’s producers. Now set to become an annual event, in 2017 Vinisud will take place right at the start of the year, enabling the bogedas to showcase both their new vintages and wines currently enjoying great success in export markets: rosés, Cava and organic wines in particular…”, is the verdict of Michel Budai, Agrifood and Wine Department Manager - ICEX Spain.


Producers 2016

  • As they were preparing to leave Vinisud 2016, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape winegrowers and merchants running the collective stand organised by the Federation of Producers' Associations were very happy with the exhibition’s visitor profile. They were pleased too with the contacts made with importers from around the world and the many French wineries attending, more and more of which are taking an interest in the huge diversity of wines produced under our appellation.
    Federation of Châteauneuf du Pape Producers' Associations - Michel Blanc – Director - France
  • For wines from South West France, Vinisud is a must-attend exhibition bringing together our entire winegrowing family, which extends from Aveyron to the Basque Country and from Toulouse to Bergerac. Yet again this year’s event was very good, enabling us to showcase the rich diversity of wines from South West France to both French and international buyers.
    South West France Wine Trade Council - Paul Fabre – Director - France
  • Once again Vinisud confirmed buyers’ growing interest in Languedoc wines. The region’s businesses came out in force for the event. Buyers turned out in high numbers. It was a win-win situation and it all promises well for the 2016 sales campaign which is getting underway.
    Joint Trade Council for Languedoc AOC and Sud de France PGI wines - Jérôme Villaret - Executive Officer - France
  • After carefully preparing for the exhibition via advance tele- and email marketing, we had a very successful Vinisud with a large number of meetings spread over the 3 days. A strong showing by French hospitality sector customers and prospects, but also by international buyers. We came away from the exhibition with firm orders from our existing customers for new vintages and new customers in areas where previously we had no presence. We’ll definitely be attending the 2017 event!
    VITISVINTAGE - Pierre Chollet – Managing Director –– Bordeaux - France
  • Vinisud offers us a great opportunity to meet our customers. It’s a pleasure to get together with our Spanish and Italian colleagues, with whom we share our Mediterranean culture.
    MICHEL GASSIER – Michel Gassier - France
  • At Vinisud, there is such a genuinely warm ambience, a special link with the wines and vines that’s much stronger than at other exhibitions. There are a lot of small-scale exhibitors working very hard on a daily basis on behalf of their wines and that’s not always the case at other trade fairs.
    VINADEIS – Bertrand Girard, Chair of the board of directors - France
  • Invited to take part in Vinisud for the 1st time, I teamed up with another winegrower from Bordeaux and this synergy worked well. Overall, we’re pleased. In addition to my customers, I met and made new contacts at Vinisud, including French wineries and wholesalers but also international buyers from China, Sweden, Spain etc.
    VIGNOBLES QUEYRENS – Jean Yves Queyrens - Sales Manager - Bordeaux - France
  • With around a hundred stands, ICEX brought together a fine representative selection of Spanish wines, with our stand location judged to be very favourable by all our exhibitors. In a central position close to the “sparkling wines” self-service tasting area, it was very advantageous for Cava exhibitors. Even though the true test of a trade fair can only be judged in the medium term when the contacts you make start to pay off, to date all the Spanish bodegas are globally pleased with the interest shown by visiting professionals. The signage marking the Spanish Pavilion was very well received and this should be used again for the next edition.
    Michel BUDAI - Manager, Agrifood and Wine Department – ICEX - Spain
  • For ARAEX, taking part in Vinisud went very well and we are really pleased with what we got out of the exhibition”
    ARAEX - Mikel Sáez de Vicuña - Brand Communication & PR Manager - Spain
  • This was our first visit to Vinisud and I have to say we were made very welcome. The exhibition is very well organised. Congratulations!
    TORELLO CAVA - Roso Gabarró - Export Manager - Spain
  • I’d like to thank DO Terra Alta for its collaboration and unconditional support throughout the planning of Vinisud. As always, it’s a pleasure to work with you.
    TERRA ALTA WINE – Jordi Reus – General Secretary - Spain
  • Visitors were mainly professionals, high calibre, and serious contacts. A few good opportunities. Very good organization
    BANFI - Jgor Marini – Export Manager - Toscana / Montalcino - Italy

Buyers 2016

  • It was a great opportunity to catch up with suppliers with whom we have existing relationships, and to taste the wines of others we had on our radar. The lectures and masterclasses were particularly interesting and educational.
    KERMIT LYNCH WINE MERCHANT - Jane Berg - New York Sales Manager – USA
  • Thank you for the perfect organization. We would be delighted if we can make use of this again in the future. Compliments!
    DELTA WINES - Ferko de Jong – Netherlands
  • Vinisud is very professional and the quality of the wines is excellent. The layout is very good in terms of regions, it’s easy to navigate. I go to a lot of fairs every year, but I always look forward to Vinisud.
    GLOBAL WINE CO – Martin Reyes, Senior Wine Buyer - USA
  • I really like Vinisud, it’s a very good working fair. It’s good for business, it’s early enough in the year, so that you can still make decisions for the rest of the year that will have a proper commercial effect.
    BERKMANN CELLARS - Gerard Barnes, Wine Buyer – UK
  • The atmosphere at Vinisud is great, it’s a very well organized fair. You have the chance to visit a lot of producers you would not meet otherwise. Three days are not enough to taste everything we’d like!
    E-VINO – Arie Gorenstein, Co-founder - Brazil

Testimonials 2014



“Mediterranean wines are very positive for my business”

The Dutch market is growing, slowly but surely, and still holds more potential for growth. With no significant domestic production; an ideal, central location within Europe; and open-minded consumers with high spending power, the Netherlands imported approximately 3.7 million hectolitres of wine worth nearly 1 billion euros in 2014. The New World countries have cornered a sizeable chunk of the market but how have wines from the Mediterranean regions fared? Huub Van den Muysenbergh, chairman and CEO of import company Wijnkoperij La Persistance in Breda, in the southern part of the country, outlines their progress.

Can you describe your company briefly?
We import wines directly and sell them to restaurants. Our customers range from bistrots and wine bars to Michelin-star restaurants. Our portfolio totals 150 wines and features mainly French and Spanish wines as well as some Chilean and German. We sell approximately 180-200,000 bottles annually. Every year, we grow by 1-3%.

You have many wines from the southern part of France in your portfolio. What attracts you to these wines?
In the South of France, there are some exceptional terroir wines and outstanding wine makers. There is at the same time wonderful value for money but also fantastic wines that pair well with food. I selected four small suppliers and entered them in the Proefschrift Magazine Competition and three of them are now in the final.

What are your selection criteria?
Authenticity, small family-run wineries and very special terroirs are my three main criteria, to which obviously I would add price, but that’s no different to anyone else. I am looking for wines that don’t have a big sales history in Holland or are new to the market. This allows us to create our own identity with our own suppliers.

Similarly, Spain is a big focus in your portfolio. What would you say are the main qualities of Spanish wines currently?
Over the last fifteen years, the quality of Spanish wine has improved dramatically. There is still a lot of wine available at very reasonable prices. The price-quality ratio is extremely good. Also, Spain is increasingly showing an authentic range of varietals. There are some rediscoveries, old varieties that are being given a modern twist and also a combination of authentic varietals with organic farming techniques. The prices in Spain can be really fabulous. The South of France is also focusing more and more on organic wines and that’s a good thing because we are undoubtedly interested in organic wines.

What is the current Dutch perception of wines from the Mediterranean wine regions?
The image of, say, wines from the South of France hasn’t always been what it is today but work done by sommeliers in promoting the quality offerings from the region has changed people’s perception. I think supermarkets have trouble in listing wines from the South of France above certain psychological price points. So Horeca channels have done a lot to upgrade the image of the wines. I believe the restaurant trade is essential in continuing to improve their image.

Do you think their taste profile is well suited to the Dutch market?
Yes, more and more. Styles in the South of France have changed. If you take an area like Pic Saint Loup, the wines were originally tannic and highly extracted whereas now, wine growers are focusing a lot more on work in the vineyards and gentler pressing etc. That’s good for the Dutch market. I don’t think you can compare Dutch tastes to those of the English, where people like sweeter wines. As I sell to Horeca channels, I am asked for wines with some tannins because of the food pairing aspect. With some wines, I lay them down for six months or so, to ensure they are ready to drink.

What are the growth prospects for Mediterranean wines in the Dutch market?
I feel very comfortable with their prospects for the future. I have been coming to Vinisud for many years. It’s amazing to see what has happened over the last ten to twelve years. I think a lot of people now realise that there are a lot of talented winemakers around. I consider working with wines from the South of France and Mediterranean regions to be very positive for my business.

What advice would you give to Mediterranean wine companies seeking to export to Holland? Should they focus on lifestyle aspects for example?
I would say that the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle – the olive oil, the vegetables, the good wine and the sunshine – are slightly old-fashioned now. Everybody is fully aware of that already. I think it is essential to organise, in conjunction with promotion organisations, tastings with young chefs and sommeliers and create pairings with wines from the South of France. If you hold these tastings twice a year, and follow them up with the right kind of budget, I think this would be highly positive for promoting wines from the South of France. Spain has been organising the Copa de Jerez, for example, where top chefs and sommeliers create food pairings with sherry. The same can be done with French Mediterranean wines. Also, winning teams then have to be invited to the region to discover the estates. The press covers this kind of food event so there is also media exposure. The French are often criticised by the Dutch for not being open-minded – personally I know this isn’t true because I work with them – but this is the general perception. Fifteen years ago, the Spanish were already very welcoming and good at hospitality, whereas the French weren’t. Over the last four or five years, this has very much changed in France, wine growers are now a lot more welcoming and open. I have written an article about it because people should know.

Is there a potential for producers supplying sparkling and rosé wines to the Dutch market?
There is definite potential for the light, Provence-style rosés in Holland. They are already a very hot item in the Dutch market. I’m not sure about sparkling – there has been a lot of hype surrounding Prosecco, now it’s more Cava. And of course Champagne is present and small quantities of Crémant, so there is a lot of competition in the sparkling wine market.

You attended Vinisud in 2014 and will be returning next year. What is your opinion of Vinisud?
The show is well organised and gets better every time. I was slightly dubious to start with but the organisation is now very efficient. It suits my business requirements – every time I find two, three or four new suppliers. So I would definitely describe it now as a successful show.

Which type of wines will you be looking for in next year’s show?
We always look for something new and compare it with what we already have in our portfolio. The show helps us keep in touch with our existing suppliers and occasionally we bump into something very special. Obviously our existing suppliers also come up with new products too.

Finally, how do you see the Dutch wine market performing generally in 2015 and 2016?
I think there will definitely be a progression in online wine sales. Also, more and more young people are interested in wine and food pairings. I get clients calling me and asking me for pairing suggestions! Currently, I would say that 10-15% of people are well educated in wine but that percentage should be 30-35%. There is room for the catering schools to improve. There should be more potential for young people to believe in food, wine and hospitality.

Interview by Sharon Nagel, Vitisphere

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Photo credit: DR


PCC Natural Markets began as a food-buying club of 15 families in 1953. today, it is the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the United States. PCC has ten stores in the Puget Sound region and is owned by more than 52,000 members who shop, along with thousands of non-members, in the stores’ neighbourhood locations.

Could you briefly provide some information about your wine buying activity – eg. annual volume sales, portfolio breakdown by country, average clientele profile…?
We have ten stores with relatively small wine departments. We are expecting to sell $12 million’s worth of wine and beer this year. Of the wines we sell, probably nearly 40% is domestic or US wine, 30% French and 20% each for Spain and Italy. I made a decision early on not to follow trends in my selection of wines but just to focus on quality and character. I really focus on estate-grown wines. Around 8 or 9 years ago, I went on an FIA trip and I was incredibly impressed with the Languedoc and at what incredible character and quality there was to be had in the region. The following year I went to Vinisud and once again, the show really suited my needs in terms of suppliers of Languedoc, Rhone, Provence and generally Mediterranean wines. There are so many wines from these regions and it was so useful to have all those wines under the same roof.

What is your average clientele profile?
We are based in Seattle, which tends to be politically left of centre, well educated and essentially interested in quality. We enjoy a unique position with our customers because they trust us. We have stores scattered around the Seattle area. On the west side of the lake particularly, where people are far more to the left politically, better educated and more willing to take a chance on wines. For that clientele, we can pretty much put anything out there on the floor and it works. They want to discover new things. Interestingly, on the other side of the lake, people tend to be far more conservative politically, again well educated but we have to play a little more to brand loyalty there. Consumers there want wines that are proven in the market and tend to be distrustful of new things, but we are even winning those wine drinkers over too.

Your company has a very specific remit – how does this affect the type of wines you source?
We don’t go out looking for organic as our first priority, certainly not certified. Personally, if I were a wine producer, I may produce organically but would not look for certification. Obviously, though, we want to work with producers who are growing wines sustainably but don’t place huge emphasis on certification. It brings us back to the quality and character issue. You just don’t find people making that sort of wine using conventional farming methods. We love biodynamic wines although there is some education to be done as people don’t know what to make of them. I’m still working on getting information out there to customers but there are some opportunities with biodynamic wines.

How do wines from the Mediterranean producer regions fit in with your strategy?
No wine portfolio is complete without great representation from Spain, Italy and France. I see Bordeaux losing some of its thunder over the years and consumers being far more interested in Mediterranean wines. There is such incredible value to be had in Spain right now. I think that’s partly to do with the economic context in that country but there is no doubt that the Spanish wine industry is enjoying a renaissance, making traditionally styled wines with modern techniques. So there is some tremendous opportunity in Spain. For Italy, a majority of consumers tend to think of Chianti or Valpolicella, so there’s an incredible amount of education still to be done. But there’s also an opportunity to offer people some amazing wines that they haven’t heard of.

What is the current perception of wines from the Mediterranean wine regions in your part of the United States?
The perception is positive in the US and there is still a lot of opportunity to grow the category because a lot of people are only beginning to discover Mediterranean wines. For example, ten years ago, nobody had heard of Corsica. Now, people are asking for Corsican wines. People have discovered a little bit about regions like these and are starting to talk about them. There is opportunity to show them more of these wines, across all categories – whether appellations or varietals – and price points. If you show people value, quality and character, you can expand their horizons and broaden your own market by doing that.

Would you say there are missed opportunities for French/Mediterranean wines?
I don’t know that they’re missed opportunities but there are more opportunities to be had.

Are you looking to increase your portfolio of French/Mediterranean wines and if so, what type of products are you looking for?
At the moment, these regions are probably well enough represented but in the future, we will certainly grow them more. We’ll probably expand Spain in the future, but are a little over-represented when it comes to Languedoc – I try to be as objective as possible in buying wines but my own preferences end up being reflected in what retails in our stores.

You attended Vinisud in 2014. Do you actually source wines from the show?
I absolutely sourced wines during a visit to the show, in 2014, 2012, 2010 and 2008. I come back with new things every time. Also it provides an opportunity to touch base with the people we’re already working with, finding out what they’re doing and what’s new. Usually, after a visit to the show, I tour the region afterwards. So the show is incredibly valuable for me.

Will you attend in 2016?
Sadly, I won’t be attending in 2016 because I have too much other travel on my schedule.

Finally, how do you see the US wine market performing generally in 2015 and 2016?
It’s interesting. I’m hearing from my industry colleagues that everyone is having to work incredibly hard just to stay even. I don’t know if that’s because there may be more importers, retailers, restaurateurs and distributors in the market and people are having to work harder for their share of the pie. People are having to work much harder to hang on to even a modest amount of growth. There seem to be a lot more industry players in the marketplace, both producing, selling and importing which tends to break the pie into smaller pieces. The marketplace is very crowded, both from a supplier and distributor/retailer perspective.

Interview by Sharon Nagel, Vitisphere

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Established in 1986, Liberty Specialty Imports Inc is the parent company of Liberty Wine Merchants, the largest chain of private wine stores in Western Canada. Liberty imports more than 400 exclusive and affordable wines and spirits, all hand-selected from over 120 of the world’s top wine producers. Liberty Wine Merchants carries 5,000 wines through six locations in Metro Vancouver along with its original location in Point Roberts, WA.

Could you briefly provide some information about your business – eg. annual volume sales, turnover, average clientele profile…etc?
We only import fine wines. We have been importing wine into western Canada for over thirty years. We also have a small chain of six upscale wine stores called Liberty Wine Merchants, in British Columbia only. We import roughly 750,000 bottles a year. Half of our imports are for restaurants. Every province in Canada is like a different country when it comes to alcohol distribution. In British Columbia there is a government retail chain. It used to be a monopoly but now there are private stores too. One of our big clients is therefore also the government stores, of which there are around 200 in British Columbia.

What are your main selection criteria for wines?
Basically it always boils down to the quality-price ratio. Also, though, we are a small enough company that we don’t deal with big brands and deal with people that we like to deal with. That has to be part of our criteria – dealing with people we want to. We deal with people who make the wines themselves, are in the vineyards every day and care about the land and what they’re doing. We can then pass that on to our customers. We have 125 producers working with us.

Your portfolio for BC contains a lot of wines from France and particularly southern France.  Why is this - how do these wines fit in with your strategy?
The wines from the south have always given us value, for one thing. British Columbia has the highest government taxes in North America. It is the most expensive wine market on the continent so value is always at the forefront for us, and the South gives us that. It provides quality wines, good diversity, huge volume potential and also the flavour profile that we enjoy here in British Columbia. The wines have always represented a large part of our portfolio, right from the word go. Every time we go back, we find new things. It’s a very dynamic region and we’re seeing young people coming on the scene, doing very interesting things. The young aspect mirrors the kind of company we are.

Can you outline the mark-up in the BC system, from ex-cellar to retail price?
It’s a very convoluted system. Private stores, for instance, get very little discount on wines from the liquor board because the board controls the pricing. So the best pricing is in the government retail stores themselves. Here, if you have an ex-cellar price of 1 euro, it becomes 10 CAD in stores. If you take an average generic bottle of Côtes du Rhône for 2.5 euros ex-cellar, that will end up on shelves at around 15-16 CAD in government stores, rising to nearly 20 CAD in private retail stores. The biggest wine price point in government retail stores is 12.99 CAD and most wines retail for 12-15 CAD.

With the weak Euro, will you be looking to increase your portfolio of European wines?
Absolutely. We’ve been fortunate with the Euro for quite a while now. It’s an enormous bonus for us because of the high government taxes, so we have to squeeze every penny out of the wines we buy.

How important are wines from other Mediterranean producer regions to your range?
Certainly, France, Italy and Spain in that order are very important to our portfolio.

Vancouver is reputed to be a Mediterranean-style North American city. Does this mean that consumers are more likely to be attracted to wines from the Mediterranean wine regions?
Certainly, being on the West Coast, Vancouver is a more laid-back and lifestyle-based city than other cities. There are a lot of restaurants serving that style of food but I’m not sure if people make the connection or not with the wines.

What is the current perception of wines from the Mediterranean wine regions in your part of Canada?
People are certainly very aware of these wines. Until a couple of decades ago we didn’t really have a local wine industry so we have always relied heavily on wine imports from around the world, including the Mediterranean. I think consumers are quite savvy and know the wines and will definitely look at wines from that part of the world. The Mediterranean is where we find a lot of the value-driven wines in the market – that’s where people look for dynamite value. I’m travelling to southern Italy to find some more value-driven wines for our portfolio. True value wines are much harder to find than the established appellations and require more work.

Is there a difference in perception between BC and Manitoba?
The two wine markets are completely different. What’s fashionable and doing well in British Columbia is not fashionable and selling well in Manitoba. This is probably true of Alberta as well, where wines are much cheaper. US wines are hugely popular in Alberta.

Are most wine sales focused in Vancouver and Winnipeg?
Absolutely. If you take Vancouver and its surrounding area, you have half the population of the entire province, in one small area. Not many people live outside of Vancouver and a couple of other cities. Certainly, wine sales are focused in three to four cities in British Columbia.

Apart from value, what other aspect of Mediterranean wines do consumers find appealing?
Stylistically, the wines match tastes here. People appreciate their style, for sure. These are warmer climate wines, often a little more generous and people like that. Especially considering the climate here. It rains for a good six months of the year and this style of wine, what they represent and where they come from makes them even more appealing. Cracking open a nice warming bottle of Spanish wine on a cold, wet evening, is certainly appealing! Conversely, one in every three bottles sold in British Columbia is now domestic wine. It has taken a pretty sizeable share away from every European country that is well established here. It’s something our suppliers have to be aware of.

What would you say are the growth prospects for Mediterranean wines in the Canadian market?
There is no doubt that the growth prospects are good. I’m not the only importer heading to that part of the world several times a year for wine.

You attend Vinisud in Montpellier - what is your opinion of the show?
I have been several times already and will be going next year. It is an important show for our business. It is a very convenient way to do business. You can see your suppliers in one place and we always come away finding a new partner to work with. The show is also a good size, it’s easy to get into and out of, compared with the larger events. I would certainly encourage people who haven’t been there to go and check it out. It’s a very important show. There are lots of interesting things happening in that region and it’s a great opportunity to go and find out what those things are. There’s also a laid-back atmosphere at the show which reflects that of the region itself – I like that.

If you attend in 2016, which type of wines would you be looking for in particular?
I’ll be looking for some site-specific, cru wines like Faugères. We’ll be looking for small production wines at the premium end. That’s where a lot of the exciting things are happening. We’re seeing a lot of young, energetic wine makers coming into that part of the business. They’re bringing old vineyards back and adding some life to that part of the world. As a group of young people here, it’s fun to work with similar-minded people at the production end. It keeps things fun.

Is the Canadian market following the same upward trend in pricing as the US market?
It’s difficult to compare the two markets because, due to the government mark-ups here, we don’t really have a market below 10 CAD to start with. To get wine on the shelves here at below 10 CAD, you’d have to buy it ex-cellar for less than a Euro – say 80 cts. We don’t have that kind of market, whereas the US does. In Canada, the 12$ price point is a very inexpensive wine here. However, part of government strategy here is to try and nudge average price points up into the 15-16$ range. I’m not sure how successful they’ve been at that.

There have been some changes to legislation on the sale of alcohol this year in BC. What does this imply for imported wines?
Basically, as of April 1, 2015, we have a wholesale price structure in place. Previously, private retail stores and restaurants bought from the government at a government list price or what the government sold the wine for on their shelves. Then they would receive a discount. Now, everyone gets a wholesale price and the wines have gone up in price. The main change, therefore, for importers like ourselves, is that the government now sets the price at which we sell our wines to the hospitality industry. Every month, I see the price of my wines go up. It’s still too early to say whether this will have an impact on volumes and the prices are still settling down. Also, I think that all the wines we sell to the government retail stores without exception have crept up in price too.

How are internet sales – eg Amazon – changing the way wine is distributed in Canada?
Until very recently, internet sales haven’t been allowed here. I believe they technically are now, even though it’s probably still a grey area because the laws are so convoluted. I’m assuming it’s legal because it is happening but I certainly don’t see the internet as being a big part of sales here at all.

Finally, how do you see the Canadian - BC and Manitoba - wine market performing generally in 2015 and 2016?
If you include domestic wines, I think 2016 will be a fairly robust year for wine sales in BC and we’ll probably see wine sales increase. We will likely see increased demand for domestic wines. However, there is a huge influx here of craft beers and that is slightly denting sales of wine. Craft beers, which are priced similarly to wines, are becoming a big part of retail in BC. Changes to legislation have led to a revolution in BC with the emergence of huge numbers of microbreweries. There are new ones opening every month. We are still a young wine market, Canadians still have more of a penchant for beer. This is particularly true when you go outside the major urban centres. I think the market for imported wines will be challenging next year, not just because of increased competition from breweries and domestic wine sales but also because of the wine law in British Columbia. It’s been an interesting year this year, and I’m sure it will be next year.

Interview by Sharon Nagel, Vitisphere

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SPAIN - Michel Budai – Manager at the Spanish Economic and Trade Office's Food and Wine Department in Paris

“ICEX, the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade in Paris has always considered the Vinisud exhibition a hub bringing together the diversity of Mediterranean wines, within which Spanish production has a rightful place. One of Spain’s greatest assets is its rich diversity of wines. With its terroirs, climates, unique grape varieties, highly attractive sparkling wines, classic or innovative reds made from a wide range of indigenous grape varieties (tempranillo, grenache, bobal, mourvèdre etc.), sensational rosé and white wines… in the space of just three days, busy buyers at Vinisud will have the chance to scour the Iberian peninsula and its major wines!”

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SPAIN - Mikel Saez - Communications Manager at ARAEX

Araex, an association founded 23 years ago whose initial aim was to unite the strengths of a Rioja winery collective in order to be competitive in export markets.

“We view Vinisud as an export-oriented trade fair. We come not only to meet existing customers, but also to identify new partners. The exhibition’s efforts to attract North American buyers are particularly appealing. Although we exhibit a wide diversity of wines, we identify ourselves completely in this Mediterranean culture in the wider sense: its art of living and joie de vivre, its gastronomy and quintessentially Mediterranean values. At our stand, we will highlight the very best that the Iberian Peninsula has to offer: reflecting the diversity of Spanish wines and distinctive Mediterranean character, it stands at a crossroads for influences and cultures.”

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CORSICA - Manu Venturi - Director at Clos Venturi and Domaine Vico - Corsica

“On the Isle of Beauty, a mini-revolution is underway. Planted in recent years, indigenous grape varieties are starting to produce wines with a unique character. A competitive advantage that appeals to consumers in mature markets”… “they are an undeniable point of differentiation and a hallmark of authenticity. They set a new standard for wine tasters, even the most discerning. At Vinisud, we intend to present single-grape wines produced from extremely old varietals that we have brought back into cultivation, either by planting or grafting-on. These are Carcaghjolu Neru grapes which we have been cultivating for 8 years and Biancu Gentille, introduced to our vineyards 6 years ago.” “Corsica is easy to locate historically by referring to Napoleon and geographically because it fills a gap in the cluster of Mediterranean islands. Its wines offer a freshness courtesy of its altitude, temperature and moderate rainfall. These are the reasons why we plan to attend Vinisud. Our aim is to align ourselves with this Mediterranean offering, which is the exhibition’s core target.”

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FRANCE - Aurélie Bertin - Owner Château Sainte-Roseline Cru Classé (classified vineyard) - Provence

“We base our marketing around colour.” With its exclusive “Lampe de Méduse” line, the Château Sainte-Roseline has carved out a niche in the upmarket rosé market. “Rosé has evolved a great deal and customer expectations in terms of packaging this style of wine are very specific. They are looking for an on-trend product with different stylistic codes from those usually associated with red. It is very clear that an alternative approach to marketing rosé wines is required. Château Sainte-Roseline also produces fine red wines. For these reasons, we look to offer a differentiated packaging by colour and not by range as is usually the case. At Vinisud, we will definitely be presenting some new products, illustrating this particular style of marketing rosé”… “Rosé currently accounts for 30% of consumption in France. The market share for rosé wines in the U.S.A is less than 10%. This represents a huge development potential. Consumption is likely to grow, as it generally follows European trends.”

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FRANCE - Philippe Martinet - Sales Director CHATEAU PUECH HAUT

“Today, in all modesty, I feel that Languedoc rosés have carved out a niche in the market. This region has been quicker off the mark than others in overhauling packaging styles, in order to give our wines a more contemporary look; for example, Puech Haut became a real pioneer by adopting a glass stopper.”… “There are three interdependent factors that help to explain the success of rosé. The first is economic: the price of rosé is reasonable. The second is product accessibility: we drink it as we like it, we don’t spend hours and hours agonising over it. A young clientele appreciates such informality and this helps to develop the product. The final factor is drinkability”… “We also have flagship products, such as Bib Art, an upmarket BIB collection in decorative wine barrels (3L, RRP 22-25 euros). These metal casks are sold only within the hospitality sector”… “We distribute a modest volume (50,000 units per year) and through this product, we are seeking to further enhance our brand image. This is also our reason for coming to Vinisud; for us it’s an exhibition that’s simply unmissable. Every evening, we organise an event at the Château to which our customers are invited.”

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ITALY - Giovanni MATIA PIANCA - Marcello SQUARISE - Giuseppe TORINA - Mario BERCHIO

Giovanni Matia Pianca - Export Manager at VINICOLA SERENA

Founded in 1881 and currently managed by its fifth generation, Vinicola Serena boasts a strong production capacity with very broad distribution throughout the entire world. “We offer our customers a wide range of wines in casks or bottles, different brands and product types including sparking wines, spumanti DOC and DOCG wines and high quality whites and reds. At Vinisud, we plan to exhibit wines in the Terra Serena and Ville d'Arfanta ranges, prestigious brands that we reserve for distribution to the hotel and catering industry, targeting high-end gastronomy and upmarket restaurants. More specifically, we will present the Prosecco Spumante DOC and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, wines that are currently enjoying worldwide popularity. These are young, fresh wines, with characteristics typical of Prosecco and suited to any age group.” “Vinisud is a very well organised, high profile trade fair, attended by large numbers of market operators from every corner of the world. Its international reputation and ability to bring together producers exclusively from the Mediterranean enable market professionals to focus on this sector. The exhibition's atmosphere is relaxed, with buyers well prepared and on the lookout for something new. This helps build good relationships between professionals and producers.”

Marcello Squarise - Sales Director at Domus Vini

“Founded in the early 1900s in the Venice area, we currently export throughout Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. France is one of our largest export markets and this is why attending Vinisud is important for us. French consumers enjoy our white and rosé wines, but not just these alone; this is why, in addition to our Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry, we will be showcasing noteworthy red wines such as Amarone since we are certain to meet a public capable of appreciating our production.” “At Vinisud, the visitors are genuine professionals, on the lookout for new products and the services on offer are well worth what is still a modest registration fee, which is no trifling matter at a time of crisis.”

Giuseppe Torina - Executive working for the SICILY REGION

“For Sicilian wines, Vinisud represents a chance to conquer the markets of Northern Europe, chiefly thanks to the strong network of professionals operating here.” “The whole spectrum of Mediterranean wine production is represented here; it is a wonderful opportunity to forge contacts with professionals who never pass up an invitation to Vinisud. Its visitor profile is undoubtedly one of the exhibition's strengths. As a specialist in BtoB meetings, Vinisud is skilled in securing appointments for buyers in the hotel / catering and mass distribution sectors, which provides an incentive for exhibitors to take part.”

Mario Berchio, wine expert and member of the “Produttori Moscato d’Asti Associati” Association

“Our association includes more than 50 winegrowing businesses and 4,000 staff working to produce Moscato d’Asti. We have been coming to Vinisud for years because, geographically speaking, this is a very important trade fair for Piémont. Attending Vinisud gives us a foothold not only in the French market, but well beyond. Our main targets are the U.S. markets and every year we meet interesting new professional contacts. Furthermore, the fair is always very well organised and it is a real pleasure to work in this way.”

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