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Outrage over ‘cynical’ ProWein move

Published:  21 January, 2022

The UK trade has expressed its outrage that ProWein has changed its date to clash with the London Wine Fair (LWF) in 2022 – while also expressing deep sympathy for the LWF which is due to return in physical form for the first time in two years.

Critics have taken aim at ProWein for its decision, expressing shock, surprise and disappointment for LWF organiser Hannah Tovey and her team.

Patrick McGrath MW, chairman of Hatch Mansfield, said: “We’re very disappointed for Hannah. She did a brilliant job last year with the virtual event. Everyone is looking forward to the May fair. I can’t believe what ProWein has done. Their behaviour is completely cynical. Clearly, they have no moral compass whatsoever. It puts all the generics in terrible position.”

In conversation with Harpers, Tovey also expressed her frustration over the timing, asking “how are people supposed to be in two places at once?”.

“It’s just unhelpful and makes things incredibly difficult for the UK industry. What are exhibitors supposed to do? As far as we’re concerned, it’s up to ProWein to come up with a solution,” she said.

Now, the conversation moves onto what exhibitors are supposed to do about the clash.

According to ProWein’s website, exhibitors are liable to pay 25% of their agreed participation fee if they decide to pull out of the new dates – and only if the space can be re-sold. Otherwise, they must pay the full amount.

Tovey is calling on ProWein to do more: “We tried to communicate with them when the rumours started circulating. The ball is now completely in ProWein’s court.”

ProWein organisers have this morning sent a statement to Harpers, explaining they "regret" the overlap with the London Wine Fair in May.

They insist they have had "many discussions with representatives of the wine and spirits industry and assessed alternatives". 

However, Tovey, among others, is adamant that the clash is intentional and commercially driven. Also, ProWein’s website currently states: “There will also be no immediate overlaps with other trade shows during this period”. Many have branded this disingenuous, while also pointing out that the LWF dates have been in the diary for over two years.

Wines of Chile’s Anita Jackson told Harpers she finds it “incomprehensible” that Messe Dusseldorf wasn’t aware of the dates, as organisers would be aware “that it would compromise them and also the companies taking part in both”.

Currently due to exhibit at ProWein, Jackson explained this is largely because Wines of Chile (WoC) has invested heavily in the show during the last two years, including having to pay ‘on-hold fees’ during the pandemic.

“We have never received a refund from [ProWein organiser] Messe Dusseldorf. For the last two years, WoC has had to pay storage fees for the stand, each month the fair doesn’t happen the costs go up.

“I would imagine this would be the case for quite a few companies. If they had committed to LWF, it poses huge issues,” she said.

There also seems to be a marked lack of communication between ProWein organisers and the UK bodies, with Harpers unaware of any major trade associations having been consulted about the new dates.

“It’s a shame ProWein doesn’t consider the UK a big enough market that they’re prepared to let their event clash with our own trade fair. After two years of the pandemic, we should be increasing opportunities to trade, not removing them,” Tovey said.

Others have also attacked the rescheduled dates for not being in the ‘spirit’ international trade and industry events.

Harpers’ contributor Angela Mount said on Twitter: “Just when the drinks industry needs to pull together more than ever, move by ProWein to clash with @londonwinefair is not only aggressive but causes huge issues to producers, suppliers, and buyers having to make choices, and choose their side.”

Having vowed to never attend ProWein again, McGrath predicts that the new Vinexpo Paris stands to benefit from the uproar and potentially segue into pole position as the world’s leading international fair.

“There has been a trend in recent years of ditching ProWein and going to Vinexpo instead. I think this trend will continue,” he said.

He added that he is 100% committed to the LWF, having promised to boycott ProWein for its “unprofessionalism” and the disregard it has displayed for many of Hatch’s producers, who are due to exhibit at the German event in 2022.

Despite the groundswell of support which has emerged, Tovey has not ruled out a possible date change for the fair. She will be talking through “all options” with the board this week.

“It’s my job to keep options open and do what’s best for exhibitors. We always put exhibitors and visitors first: we were nimble into going digital when we needed to; and we continue to try and be a flexible, friendly body. We remain open-minded and look to do what’s best by everybody.

“I also believe ProWein has massively underestimated the sentiment the UK industry has for its own homegrown trade fair,” she said.

The full statement from Bastian Mingers, project director for wine & spirits at Messe Düsseldorf regarding London Wine Fair, said: "We are aware that we overlap with the London Wine Fair in May and regret this very much. Due to the current high level of infections and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, we had to move a total of five international trade shows organized by Messe Düsseldorf to early summer.

"It was important for us to closely coordinate all new dates with all parties involved. We had many discussions with representatives of the wine and spirits industry and assessed alternatives. For ProWein, the time slots were particularly tight because we also have to keep in mind concerns such as the vegetation cycle for example. Therefore, the only alternative date for ProWein 2022 was this one from 15 to 17 May."