“Wider aisles, better conversations and more time.” These were among the positive comments from the side-lines at both this year’s Prowein and London Wine Fair.

And it’s no surprise that after two years off, a Spring of Covid uncertainty and an initial clash over dates that visitor numbers weren’t up to pre-pandemic levels. Prowein reported 38,000 visitors from 145 countries at its 2022 event, while 2019 boasted a record 61,500 visitors from 142 countries.

Meanwhile LWF reported a 33% decrease on pre-pandemic levels, with visitor numbers this year reaching 8,822.

LWF head Hannah Tovey says that in her 15 years as an event organiser, she has never experienced a show quite like this one. “There have been many highs and lows, but crucially, the London Wine Fair team and its exhibitors have pulled off something very special; a show which has brought the industry back together after a period of incredible uncertainty,” she explains. “The buzz at the show was palpable as the trade returned to face-to-face business, tastings, networking and discovery. Feedback from exhibitors has been overwhelmingly positive – many have already re-booked their stands for 2023 – with reports of seriously high-quality visitors from the buying sectors, and key decision makers were in abundance. We rigidly pursued the policy of charging attendees introduced in 2019, despite knowing it would negatively affect the overall number of attendees. We remain completely committed to delivering quality attendees over quantity.”

And in Germany, German Wine Institute managing director Monika Reule says the new hall concept “has contributed to more time and calmness for talks with customers and made for a very professional atmosphere overall. At the same time, the quality of international trade visitors, who hailed predominantly from the European region, was highly praised”.

Elsewhere, the VDP adds that after two years of pandemic there were “fewer but very interested and above all selected, high-quality trade visitors at the trade fair so there was more room and more time for in-depth conversations”.  

Barring another global crisis, both fairs have announced their dates for next year – with no clashes on the cards. Prowein will return to its normal March month – from March 19-21 – while LWF returns to May 15-17.

While it would be naïve to think both shows aren’t hoping for more visitors next year, it would be nice if there was a way to keep the spacious feel.