(Photos taken late morning on Wednesday 5th February. The third day is always quieter but not as quiet as this.)
How long will exhibitors continue to pay 2000 euros for a small stand? Obviously you pay considerably more for a larger more substantial one. The third day at the Salon has always been quiet but this year Tuesday also seemed quiet. There were certainly some producers, who reported that this edition had been quiet and they had seen few people. Equally there were other producers, examples include Lionel Gosseaume (Touraine) and Stéphane and Carine Sérol, who were very positive about the contacts they had made during the Salon and the business done.
Some familiar names have already disappeared from the Salon. This year no Pierre-Jacques Druet (Bourgueil, Chinon), no Château de Tracy (Comte Henry d'Assay, Pouilly-Fumé), no Thomas Labaille (Sancerre), no Domaine de Bellivière (Christine and Eric Nicolas). Over the last few years producers like Domaine Champalou have decided that going to Prowein in Dusseldorf late March is more profitable than attending the Salon at the end of January.
Two difficult and short vintages along with the continuing economic difficulties have forced both producers and visitors to tighten their belts.
The first edition of the Salon des Vins de Loire was in 1987 and attracted a small number of producers mainly from Anjou with a few from Saumur. It soon became the essential annual date for Loire wines. Now in 2014 that position has been eroded. In part by the competing Salons Off, especially those like the Dive Bouteille (Saumur) and La Levée de Loire (Greniers de Saint Jean, Angers), which run on the Monday, the first day of the Salon. However, equally important the Salon has failed to evolve - it is stuck in a rut. For instance the website is poor with French the only proper language offered. There are other languages offered including English, simplified Chinese and Japanese but this relies on the strengths or vagaries of Google translate - the cheapskate solution!
Google Translate treats from Salon des Vins de Loire website:
‘Stand naked :
We provide bare ground without partition (except joint stands) without carpet (with the possibility to control a) without banner or sign.’
It is in neither party’s interest to allow the Salon, which can be a wonderful showcase of Loire wines, to wither and die. No Salon and few visitors outside the immediate region will bother to attend La Levée de la Loire nor, probably the other Salons Off. Anecdotal reports suggest that La Levée was poorly attended this year. I enjoy going to the Renaissance tasting but wouldn't travel from London specially to go to Renaissance though I might well if I was in Touraine at the time.
The Salon needs a new impetus - a new sense of excitement. Further drift and delay could well be fatal. It would be a great shame if the Salon des Vins de Loire ceased to be viable and disappeared.
The 2015 edition of the Salon (the 29th edition) runs from Monday 2nd February to Wednesday 4th February 2015. Let's hope this edition sees the start of a return to health. Ever optimistic I booked my hotel for 2015 before I left yesterday!