I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a Wine Trade Fair virgin. Way down in Australia we don’t have anything like this as it is not a big enough market for such a trade fair, and most of the market is dominated by six wine companies. The closest thing we have is individual distributors inviting their producers to show new release wines either once a year or every other year. Having visited Prowein 2012 I can say that this is preferable, as there are far less producers to see and I am familiar with them all. There is also the fact that I know many other attendees and can chat about the wines with them. Attending Prowein is a little bit like the edible room scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except in that scene they knew what everything was and what they wanted to taste. I spent most of my time wandering around not knowing many of the producers and not knowing which were good enough to visit. It is amazing to see all of these big bright shiny stands, and the layout is generally clear and makes sense. There are a lot of stands for negociants and importers, so you sometimes stumble on Australian wines in the German hall, or French wines in the Spanish hall.
|Shiny Prowein 2012|
The second problem that I had was the difficulty in tasting the wines completely out of context. I have now been travelling for five months across three wine continents, where I visit the regions vineyards and wineries before tasting a selection of wines. Tasting wines with owners and winemakers at the estate gives you wonderful perspective and understanding and deepens the connection with the wine. Tasting at Prowein is inelegant and unromantic for a number of reasons. The first is that in such a crowded and corporate environment there is no connection to what makes the wines so unique and great, which is the vineyards and winery. The second is that producers are often distracted, exhausted, overwhelmed and so bored with saying the same things over and over again. They have little interest in talking to someone who isn’t a customer in the immediate future. The third reason is that the vast majority of wines on offer are brand spanking new, mostly still in barrel/tank or freshly bottled wines that are far too young to truly appreciate and enjoy. The German wine trade/consumers like their wines young before they are even ready and actually expressing something.
|VDP pavilion at Prowein 2012|
I spent the Sunday of Prowein 2012 in Hall Four which was dedicated to Germany, and most of this was spent in the VDP section where I caught up with producers I had visited or ones that I hadn’t but wanted to. It was great to meet with and try some new wines with people like Kuenstler, Wittman, Christmann, Leitz, Hans Wirsching, Gunderloch and Buerklin-Wolf. I was also glad to be able to meet and try wines with such amazing German producers as Fritz Haag (Mosel), Emrich Schoenleber & Dr. Crusius (Nahe), Rebholz & Becker (Pfalz) and Kuehn (Rheingau). All of these producers were astonishingly good, with Haag, Crusius and Kuehn particular highlights.
|Spanish pavilion at Prowein 2012|
The second day at Prowwin was spent in Hall Seven which was dedicated to Austria. Thanks to a couple of importers in Australia that I worked with back in Melbourne I was familiar with a few names, some of which I had already made appointments to visit immediately following Prowein. In researching good estates to visit in Austria I had discovered that most of the top estates are all imported by Cellarhand (much like the top German estates), and so went to introduce myself. In general I was very ignorant of the many and varied names in Hall Seven, particularly as I was yet to visit the country and its regions. It was great to meet producers like Knoll, Bruendlmayer, FX Pichler, Nigl, Stadt Krems, Moric, Kollwentz, Alzinger, Franz Hirtzberger and Sepp Moser. Again the 2011 wines on offer are far too young to truly express anything, but they certainly got me excited to visit and get to know them better.
|A familiar face at Prowein 2012|
The third day I was a tad jaded with the experience, and somewhat tired from the party the night before hosted by the German Sommeliers Association. Held in the top nightclub in Dusseldorf there is free-flowing wine from five different bars, and it is a veritable who’s-who of the German wine industry. I had been invited by my lovely host at Weingut Hans Wirsching Andrea Ebert, and it was great to see her and a number of people I had met on my German excursion. Anyway, the third day I went a wandering and saw a number of producers that I had already visited in North & South America, and some I am hoping to visit this year in Europe. I was also feeling a little homesick, and so when passing through the Australian area I couldn’t resist tasting some wines from De Bortoli, as the Yarra Valley was my first wine home back in 2006 and I knew the wines were good as they were the first I ever cellared.
|De Bortoli stand at Prowein 2012|
I was glad to have had the opportunity to attend the trade fair to know what it is like without the pressure of being on the job and running around to appointments. Next time I attend I will probably be there in an official and non-observational capacity, so won’t be overwhelmed with the experience. At least I will be somewhat prepared for Vinitaly in a few weeks. Or will I…