ProWein, Dusseldorf (March 13-15):
In the winemaking areas of the northern hemisphere, mainly Europe and North America, spring is when the wines produced from grapes harvested in the previous September-October period are ready, and when the wine-marketing machinery gets going to showcase what has been produced and they take orders for the year from buyers.
So, the March-June period sees a slew of wine fairs in Europe. At the fairs, one can sample wines produced not only in the host country but all over the world - and everyone who is anyone in the wine world heads there. The principal fairs and tasting events in 2016 are:
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Yes, you just missed this one this year. ProWein has grown to become the largest trade fair for wines, with 6,000 exhibitors from 50 countries spread over 67 square kilometres of space that attracted 53,000 visitors in 2015. The majority of stalls are for wine, while beer, wine production machinery and German foods are also on display. It is also the first major wine fair in Europe, which gives it a special cachet.
The Bordeaux en primeur week (April 5-7):
This is one event where you have to be invited to be able to attend it. It involves the top Bordeaux chateaux, offering a taste of wines still lying in barrels to potential buyers and experts - well in advance of the wines that would be actually released 12 to 24 months later. This generates publicity for the wines and provides the wineries the much-needed cash flow to help finance the next year's operations. As may be expected, the number of visitors is much less. The hospitality levels are much more luxuriant, with many chateaux hosting extravagant dinners at their estates for their guests.
Vinitaly, Verona (April 10-13):
Well, of course, Italians must have their own wine fair, and Vinitaly has it all. In 2015, there were more than 4,000 exhibitors and operators from 140 countries. The event, held over 88 square kilometres, saw 150,000 visitors (including 2,600 journalists) from around the world. Most exhibitors are wine companies, but there are also people who exhibit olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and wine machinery and accessories. And, although technically this is a trade fair, a fairly large number of consumers buy tickets (^80 a day and ^120 for four days) to sample the wines on display. A wine competition preceeds the fair, where some 3,000 samples are tasted and scored by panels of experts over the course of a week.
The London Wine Fair (May 3-5):
A shadow of its former self when it included spirits, this fair now caters largely to trade in the United Kingdom: in 2015, there were 670 exhibitors, catering to about 11,000 visitors, and unless you don't have much to do in the UK, you can give it a miss.
The fair is held every alternate year in France and the Far East. Vinexpo Hong Kong 2016 is on May 24-26 and Vinexpo Tokyo on November 15-16. The 2015 fair in Bordeaux (held on June 14-18) was large: it saw 2,350 exhibitors from 42 countries and nearly 50,000 visitors from 150 countries. The largest number of exhibitors were from France, while the United States was named "the country of honour" as a bow towards the world's largest wine market. Vinexpo Bordeaux 2017 is scheduled for June 18-21.
For all the European wine fairs, check out their websites on how to visit and book your tickets early.
Wines I've been drinking:
Food Lovers, to my mind, is the best food-centric magazine in India. Its owner (he prefers "managing editor"), Kripal Amanna, has singularly brought chefs and their culinary creations out of the shadows and into the limelight, at least in Bengaluru. The "Grand Food & Wine Showcase", organised recently at The Oberoi, Bengaluru, featured one dish each from 10 leading fine-dining restaurants in the city - and, of course, 10 wines. My favourite: the Dominio del Plata BenMarco Malbec 2009 from Argentina. It is complex and fruity, with a jammy, full-bodied taste, soft tannins and a terrific finish. Rated 89 points by Wine Spectator, it is a steal at Rs 3,566.
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant