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Prowein 2023: The Harpers rundown

Published:  22 March, 2023

Innovation, sustainability, organic wine and the ‘immediacy’ of embracing alternative formats were common threads which ran throughout this year’s Prowein, as the event descended once more for a predictably rainy yet bustling three days in Düsseldorf.

With roughly 6,000 exhibitors spanning 17 halls, Prowein is the world’s biggest wine fair, reaching into some of the most disparate parts of the wine world. Yet, several major themes ran throughout.

Spanning classic New and Old World halls, this year saw sustainability agendas come to the fore in particular, with the urgency of alternative packaging adoption coming through loud and clear at the Trends Hour session.

At the popular Monday spot, duo Paula Redes Sidore and Stuart Pigott highlighted a number of growing trends, including BiB or BoB (bag-out-of box), as in the case of Weingut Joachim Flick’s wine pouches. Pigott described the Weingut pouch and its like as “extremely practical. You can have your first glass of wine and come back to it three months later and it’s still going to taste every bit as good”.

The increasingly ubiquitous Frugalpac design, which features a paper bottle and plastic bag insert used by When in Rome and others in the UK, also made an appearance at the session via Umbria producer Cantina Goccia.

On the cusp of an ‘utter container rethink’ when it comes to glass and slashing the industry’s collective carbon footprint, Redes Sidore added that BiBs or BoBs should be considered as serious alternatives for every-day drinking wine, with such formats capable of reducing carbon footprints by around 40%.

“As critics and responsible individuals within the wine chain, we’re trying to actually put some teeth behind the idea that heavy bottles serve very little purpose. Glass prices in 2022 were about 45% higher than in 2019. Throughout Europe last year, that translated to an increase of over 20 cents per bottle; and in light of the recent glass shortage and ongoing climate crisis, the glass problem has in the last few years taken on a new and dramatic level of immediacy.”

“People say ‘consumers won’t accept this’,” added Piggott. “They said the same thing about screwcap 20 years ago and consumers have now accepted it. Why? Because it works.”

Over at Santa Rita, corporate affairs and sustainability director Elena Carretero was less convinced that the status quo will ever be moved away from glass. However, she agreed that if the wine industry continues to put wine in heavy glass bottles, its collective carbon footprint is going to continue to be substantial.

“It was surprising to learn how much packaging plays a part in our footprint. Of our Scope 3 emissions, which accounts for 64% of total emissions, packaging is 46%. It’s not transportation, as you might expect, which is only 11%,” she said.

Organic wine was on the up, too. Part of a “sea-change” in the industry and at Prowein over the last couple of years according to Piggott, advances can also be seen via the likes of Raventós Codorníu, which is currently bottling its first 100% entirely certified organic vintage for the flagship Codorníu range.

The journey forms part of the company’s evolution alongside international expansion and driving value, new CEO Sergio Foster said.

“No one brand of our size is completely certified organic. It’s part of our commitment to drive value for the category, which has to be our obsession. We have to ask ‘why doesn’t Cava have the same cachet as Champagne?’ Marketing is an issue, for sure. Consistency is also key. At the moment, only 35% is exported outside Spain, with the top markets places like the US, UK, Japan and Belgium. So there is a big opportunity.”

Low & no was also accorded its own growing level of hype, thanks to a new dedicated zone.

In the new World of Zero, visitors were greeted with the provocative slogan, ‘alcohol is dead, long live alcohol’, emblazoned in yellow, pink and purple. The eye-catching stand was the work of Kolonne Null, a Berlin-based start-up whose graphic designer founder has clearly found a way to make an impact with its non-alc wine messaging.

A final word goes to Chilean producer Morandé, for innovation via its newest wine Hax, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend which focuses on parcels with high antioxidants.

Made from different valleys and different vintages across the Maipo area, each parcel is vinified in separate tanks, which are then measured for antioxidant-carrying polyphenols and blended accordingly.

So far, the wine has launched into one of biggest stores in the US with distribution in 27 states. It is now looking to the UK with an RRP of £8.99.

Overall, the fair appeared in good form. In certain corners, there was some suggestion of a tussle for supremacy with the recently merged Vinexpo and Wine Paris, with the France-focused hall possibly less busy than in previous years.

In the main however, the fair was in good health, with faces new and more established all making the most of reinstated face-to-face meetings for another year.