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Interview: Vinexpo Chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre

June 2, 2015

Taking place June 14-18 in Bordeaux, Vinexpo’s 2015 wine and spirits exhibition is expected to draw nearly 50,000 industry professionals and 2,400 exhibitors from 44 wine-producing countries. The biannual event, currently in its 19th edition, has evolved dramatically over the decades. This year Vinexpo has partnered with Wine Spectator on a U.S. market-geared panel presentation and tasting, while designating the U.S. as its first-ever “special guest country.” SND associate editor Christina Jelski recently spoke with Vinexpo chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre about the upcoming show and its new features.

SND: Can you talk about the new initiatives for Vinexpo’s Bordeaux 2015 event?

Eizaguirre: There are several new things this year, but the most important is that, for the first time ever, we’re going to pay tribute to a specific country. We’ll continue to do that in the future, but it was obvious that the country of honor this year should be the U.S. for several reasons. The U.S. market has become, in the last 30 or 35 years, one of the largest wine players in the world—the fourth-largest wine producer and the number-one consumer globally. And it’s still just beginning, because if you dig into the numbers you realize that the U.S. has a per-capita consumption of around 12.5 liters, very small compared to European standards. The U.K. is at about 27 liters per capita, and France, Spain and Italy are at around 45 liters. So there’s still much room for growth and expansion in the U.S. market.

SND: What specific issues will you highlight within the U.S. market focus?

Eizaguirre: The U.S. isn’t easy to crack for marketers because of the three-tier system—with which very few people outside the country are familiar—as well as distributor consolidation. The system needs to be explained, which we will do with two major events in partnership with Wine Spectator. One is a conference titled “Inside the U.S. Wine Market,” which will be of prime interest to international trade attendees. We’ll bring in some of the key players of the U.S. industry, including distributors like Southern Wine & Spirits and retailers like Total Wine and Costco. Secondly, we’ve put together a tasting of wines produced in the U.S. by large foreign wineries. They’re all companies that over the years have set foot in the U.S. either directly—such as Moët Hennessy’s Domaine Chandon—or indirectly, through joint ventures with American wineries. So we’ll explain that one way to engage the U.S. market is to produce locally.

SND: What do you see as the most influential trends driving the U.S. wine market?

Eizaguirre: Consumption is up overall, but people are also drinking better quality wine, demonstrating that they’re willing to pay more. One thing that will help the U.S. now is that the dollar is strengthening versus the euro, which will make some of the wines that got a bit too expensive more accessible, particularly Bordeaux and French wines in general. In terms of different styles, rosé is now becoming a serious category, and we also see a huge development within sparkling wine. Another thing we see shaping the market is the sweet wine segment, which was sort of asleep for nearly 25 years. But there’s renewed interest in ice wines, Muscat, sweet reds and others.

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