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By John Salvi
December 2005

Once again, and for the 10th time, I attended the Loire wine Fair from 31st January – 2nd February. In 2005 it was the 19th Fair and it was happily just as successful as the preceding 18.

What is it that make this salon just an enjoyable and successful one. Three reasons immediately string to mind.

1. It is of human dimensions. Its layout and its shape means that it is possible to go from one chosen exhibitor to another without walking for miles and miles and becoming to exhausted by lunchtime to enjoy the afternoon. At Vinitaly, for example, I got totally lost over and over again and could not wait to get away. At Vinexpo, even after five days, there were whole sections of the show, which were so far away that I had not summoned up the courage to walk to them. At this Salon I saw everybody I wanted to see, and had a little energy to spare for the evening.

2. The Salon takes particularly good care of the press. The press–room is well equipped with computers and printers, the staff are helpful, and above all they give the press an excellent lunch every day. The cold buffet and the oysters are not just welcome and delicious; they are also a meeting point for the press for numerous discussions and exchanges of ideas and information.

3. The exhibitors look and talk as though they were pleased to see you. They make you feel that they are really interested in you and give you more than a passing glance and a disdainful slurp of their wine. This is wonderfully encouraging. I can enjoy real discussions on soil, terroir, cépages, viticulture, vinification and vintage characteristics with a variety of growers from different areas, without being made to feel that they are too busy for this sort of thing and that I am taking up far too much of their precious time. Long may this last. These growers are doing themselves a great service and attracting customers and good press reports. Bordeaux should really think about its attitude. Arrogance is not the best way to make or to keep friends and customers.

This year Laurent Le Sager was General Commissioner and Pierre Aguilas was Chairman. The “guest of honour” or rather "countries of honour” were the United Kingdom and Canada (Ontario).

Excellent glasses were used for the first time and this is so very important that one always wonders at the lack of them at so many Wine Fairs. These were Mediatus Cristallin glasses from the Verrerie de la Marne.

I do not yet have the exact figures, but there was a substantial increase on visitors over last year. Last year it was 8430 visitors – 12% of them from abroad. The United Kingdom led the way with nearly one quarter of all visitors. Belgium and Holland were not so far behind and although a very long way from home the USA put up a good appearance.
Also in 2004 there were 596 exhibitors from all the different wine producing regions of the Loire. I am delighted to say that 80% of these were growers. That is certainly another one of the reasons for the success of this show – there are still hundreds of stands of independent private growers, big and small, cheap and expensive, top quality and rather less so. It is a real work ground for discovery. Thousands of delicious wines are tucked away on these stands, some of them famous already, but many of them unknown and just waiting to be found and taken to the consumer. Small lots and tiny special cuvees, everything is there and there is no greater satisfaction for the visitor than discovering a little gem and making it one’s own to write about, to import, to put on one’s restaurant list or to use in a tasting.

For those who do not know the Loire so very well it is France’s third largest winegrowing area in terms of volume of A.O.Cs marketed. There are no less than 68 different appellations. It produces 66 million hectolitres. It covers 12 departments with over 73,000 Hectares of vines.

French CQPRD wines have dropped worldwide by an important 8.3%. However the total of the Wines from the Loire exported to the UK has only dropped by 1%. In 2004 the UK imported 438,100 Hectolitres, or no less than 9% of the total OF French VQPRD wines exported. White wines are the biggest market for the UK with 63% of all Lire wines imported. Muscadet and Sancerre top the list. Rose is back in vogue, after a very bad patch, and has regained a 20% market share. Sparkling wines are also firmly on the increase. I am happy and proud to say that the UK remains the most important market in the world for Loire Wines with a 38.1% market share, well ahead of both Germany and Belgium.
Once again I congratulate the Salon de La Lore on another excellent show, both commercially and hedonistically. I shall continue to attend and to enjoy their gracious hospitality. I shall be writing a more detailed report on the 2004 vintage under the different appellations together with an assessment of its quality, its quantity and its marketability.

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