Not quite the largest wine trade show in the world—but getting there—ProWein steadily upholds its reputation as the place for wine and spirits business to occur. This year, the Düsseldorf, Germany, convention hosted an increased number of wine estates and producers from countries far outside the expected.
In addition to the likes of old world stalwarts like France and Italy, and new world names like Australia and Argentina, there were Bolivia, Bulgaria, Uruguay and Luxembourg, together with lesser-known regions in traditional producing countries.
Though little-explored outside their national borders, grapes have, in such places, been grown and wine made for centuries. Bodega Narbona in Uruguay, for example, was founded in 1909 as one of the first wineries in the country by one Juan de Narbona. It went through a period of decline and then was bought up and renovated starting in 1990. Its first commercial vintage after extensive renovations was 2010, and was overseen by consultant Michel Rolland—his first project in Uruguay.
Bodega Narbona presented three of its Tannat-based wines at ProWein, with the goal of exporting to 10 to 15 countries in all. Currently, its wines can be found in the US (via Classic Wines and Hidalgo Imports, and for Puerto Rico, via B Fernandez), Brasil, Peru, Mexico, the Netherlands and soon in Germany, owner Jerónimo Cantón told Vino247.
Also present from South America was Bolivia. This year, 2015, Bolivian wine estates came together to form the first Wines Of Bolivia pavilion. The Kohlberg winery has been around since 1965, and points out the high altitude of its vineyards (1600 to 3000 metres). Jaime Kohlberg, part of the family that founded the estate, told Vino247 that it was thanks to support from the Dutch government that Bolivia was able to be present at ProWein. A visit to the country by a Master of Wine who, five years ago, saw the potential in its wines also helped encourage this presence. The goal is, of course, to find importers. “We must set an image as Wines Of Bolivia,” Kohlberg said.
He was joined in this sentiment by Mauricio Hoyos, general manager of Bodega Aranjuez, who joined the company in 2007 doing sales. Hoyos, whose grandfather made wine and who said that he has loved wine his whole life, added that with the huge market competition it was hard to find importers, but that Bolivia could stand out thanks to its reasonable prices for complex wines made at high altitudes.
Perhaps slightly better known in the States as a winemaking country, Bulgaria, which traces it viticultural and vinicultural roots back more than 6000 years, participated with about 25 estates, half of which were at the Wines Of Bulgaria stand.
One of these was Santa Sarah, where winemaker Lidiya Pelova said that there had been some interest from traders in the Czech Republic and in Vietnam. Santa Sarah, which operates in part using solar energy, buys its grapes from different regions in Bulgaria and is planning to plant its own initial four hectares of vines in May 2015.
About 2250km north-west of Bulgaria, wine is made in Luxembourg. In the region of Schengen, at that. Henri Ruppert, who took the reins of his family’s winery in 1990, said that the first vines in his area were planted in 1680. With 15 hectares of vines (up from the 3ha that his father had), Ruppert said that even though half of the Schengen AOP is in France, he can still label his wines as being from Luxembourg.
On being asked why he chose to participate in ProWein, he told Vino247 that he had clients who came to see him and that he was trying to export more. “Germany is a big importer. Our wines are similar to Mosel wines, but our terroir (clay/limestone) is different.”
The Domaine Henri Ruppert “Esprit de Schengen” Crémant de Luxembourg was a delicious example of his craft, with beautiful aromas of flowers, lively yet round in the mouth.
Ruppert’s barrel-aged Pinot Blanc Barrique had aged one year on fines lies, and recalled coconut and cacao power, with a bright texture. It was so well-received that he has sold out of this label.
“The region has a hard time keeping up with demand,” Ruppert said. Rightly so.
It turns that there are still little-known wine growing regions in France, too. For example, Lorraine, to the south of Alsace.
Domaine Lelièvre’s vineyards are in Toul, which is in fact an appellation. The soil here is clay/limestone, like in the Cote d’Or. David Lelièvre, responsible for the sales and management side of the estate, said that “people are not too familiar with modern Lorraine wines. They don’t know what’s happening here. Lorraine is waking up”. He gave the example of the fact that before WWI, there were nearly 50,000ha of vines in this region. Nowadays, there are only about 200ha.
He said that he liked ProWein because it took place at a “better time of year (for buyers) than Vinexpo” (every other June in Bordeaux), particularly as his wines were ideal for summer. “I leave here with orders, which is rare for a trade show.”
His wines—a sparkling, a rosé Gris de Toul, some Pinot Noirs, all bright, clean and complexly tasty—will soon be available in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon thanks to wine agent Thomas Calder.
Goals and Benefits
Sales were, of course, the goal of participating in such a trade show as ProWein. Though also, as seen and as tasted, it was a platform to help establish an united identity, to gain national recognition and to discover what was happening in other places in the world, and how countries progress in levels of quality as the years pass by.
The 22nd Prowein saw more than 52,000 international trade visitors. There were 5,970 exhibitors from 50 countries, according the organisers.
For furhter information:
Bodega Narbona: www.narbona.com.uy
Vinos Kohlberg: www.bodegaskohlberg.com
Vinos Aranjuez: www.facebook.com/pages/Vinos-Aranjuez/403550339717243
Santa Sarah: www.santa-sarah.com
Domaine Henri Ruppert: www.domaine-ruppert.lu
Domaine Lelièvre: www.vins-lelievre.com