Leaders of major wine fair organisers warn change is needed to positively engage new consumers

As wine trade fair season approaches, the heads of Europe’s two biggest have rung out warnings about major challenges facing the industry.

The chief executive of Vinexposium, which organises Wine Paris and Vinexpo Paris, said many players in the wine industry “need to change from being farmers to marketers” if they want to attract the next generation of drinkers.

Rodolphe Lameyse continued that spirits companies are successfully attracting younger legal age drinkers, with “high prices, high margins, fancy marketing and advertising”, but wine is failing to keep up. “In the wine industry, we all hear the same story about ‘this is terroir, this is family, this is tradition’,” Lameyse said. “I am very sensitive to that but I’m not so sure my kids are. They want to hear something different. The wine industry needs to be a bit more marketing focused.”

Lameyse’s views on engagement with younger consumers echo those of Peter Schmitz, director of Prowein, who said that wine and spirits consumption “wherever you go is decreasing”. While Schmitz was keen to emphasise that wine remains the core of Prowein, this year’s event will have an increased focus on spirits.

Wine’s struggles were highlighted by global insights company IWSR, whose Bevtrac report, released in December, recorded a “significant negative shift” in spending in the world’s top 15 alcohol markets, with wine taking the biggest hit. Combined wine volumes across those markets – which include the UK – were down 4% in the first half of 2023.

Anastasia Timofeeva, IWSR senior consumer insights manager, added a note of long-term optimism, however. “Consumers report high job security,” she said, “so future sentiment remains positive.” She added that the negative shift was “not structural, and a bounce-back is likely”.

Lameyse at Vinexposium noted that, in addition to wine being left behind in the marketing stakes, the industry faces continuing challenges around climate change, cost of living issues and geopolitical conflicts. These challenges have multiplied in recent weeks with the war in Gaza and the ensuing Red Sea shipping crisis. Elections in the US, UK, South Africa, Russia, Mexico, India and the EU during 2024 all have the capacity to impact world markets negatively.

Lameyse billed the growing scale of Wine Paris/Vinexpo Paris as an opportunity for the event to become a “marketplace where the major wine and spirits-related economic, social and societal issues are tackled”, though the real world challenges that lie ahead may mean this is easier said than done. 

Wine Paris and Vinexpo Paris run from February 12-14. Prowein takes place in Düsseldorf from March 10-12.