Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Salon des Vins de Loire: helicopter furore a symtom of deeper malaise
Château la Grille, Chinon
Detail of the château
New facilities including visitors' centre under construction: June 2011
Not surprisingly the chief topic of conversation at both the official 2013 Salon des Vins de Loire and the off-salons was the difficulty of the 2012 vintage and the remarkable quality of some of the wines made. Or at least it was until the Baudry-Dutour's helicopters landed and created a furore. See here and here.
It was already surprising that Baudry-Dutour did not have a stand at this years Salon as Jean-Martin Dutour is the president of InterLoire, one of the partners of the salon. Surprise turned to fury for some of the exhibitors when they discovered that Baudry-Dutour had invited some journalists and other guests from the Salon to visit Château la Grille on the Tuesday morning (5th February). Their guests would be flown by helicopter to Château la Grille on the north outskirts of Chinon to see the recently renovated winery. Three trips, lasting a little over two hours, were offered: 10.30, 13.30 and 16.00. The helicopter would take off some 500 metres from the Parc des Expositions, home of the Salon.
I was invited to go but turned it down because I was at the Salon to see the vignerons there and I can revisit Baudry-Dutour on another occasion later in the year to see the renovated chai etc. Furthermore we were leaving for the UK early afternoon.
As they weren't exhibiting Jean-Martin Dutour as president of InterLoire ought to have been aware that the helicopter excursion would provoke a strong reaction. This is, however, just a symptom of a deeper malaise. Press releases about the Salon still proclaim it to be 'le rassemblement incontournable de toute la production de la Loire'. This used to be true but sadly this claim is now under serious threat. Although happily the number of visitors was up on last year – it would have been disastrous if they weren't, there were apparently some 70 to 80 fewer exhibitors this year. Jean-Martin Dutour and Christophe Baudry were far from only producers not present at this years Salon.
The number of Salons-Off increases exponentially year on year. This year there were seven/eight – 16 in 2014? Some, like Renaissance, are held during the weekend before the Salon, others like the organic Salon la Levée de la Loire (4th February), were held during and in competition with the Salon. I think events before the Salon can help to draw more people to Salon but holding off-events during the Salon seems to me to be a dangerous nonsense. This year there were exhibitors at the Salon who were also at la Levée. How are buyers, who may only be visiting the Salon the Monday to know where to meet the producer and have the time to travel from the Salon to the centre of Angers? Suicidal!
There needs to be some joined up thinking and a willingness to compromise by all parties to avoid the Salon declining in importance.The threat is already uncomfortably present.