As many have noted, it has been most likely (and many hope) an year of transition. The economic crisis was clearly visible both among the stands of the producers (many, important, absences) and in the public (some mentioned 10% less compared to 2 years ago). The budgetary restrictions have reduced the room for manoeuvre and, while there are some signs of recovery at world level, this will only start to appear towards the end of 2009 and it was then almost inevitable for Vinexpo to suffer from the bad economic moment. The absence of the American market was also visible, and many in Bordeaux are suffering due to the key reference of this market for the bordelais.
I noted in particular that all those producers, mostly small producers who were organised with consortium or other local organisations, who did not prepare well in advance the fair with previous contacts and rendez-vous suffered enormously from the diminution of customers (importeres, distributors etc.). I noted this not only for foreign, for example Italian or Spanish producers, but also for French wineries. A fair like Vinexpo needs to be well prepared in advance, either by the organisations (consortium..) or by the the producers themselves. The power of attraction of the fair, notably when fewer visitors are there, is not enough to make substantial business.
A last note with regard to a missed opportunity for the Italian wine: the parallel event "Italissima" which was organised outside Vinexpo (on the other side of the lake, besides the Palais des Congres). The event had all the cards to play a key role: a palette of important Italian producers, a list of intersting tastings guided by Michel Bettane and Enzo Vizzari and the enthusiasm of the producers present there. Unfortunately, the event suffered strongly from the conflict engaged with Vinexpo, which not only refused all kind of advertising (understandable but from my view not clever, since these events are also useful for the main fair), but put many obstacles (blocking bottles, sending controls for authorisations...). It is a pity, first of all for all those producers who suffered for this, that this occasion has been partly lost (to be noted that most guided tastings were sold out). And even more because I tasted great wines from those producers that I had the oportunity to visit: Roberto Voerzio and his great Barolo's and Barbera Annunziata; Borgo del Tiglio and his complex and rich white wines; San Leonardo and the balance of his bordelais wine; Vajra and his traditional barolos ; Albino Rocca with the balsamic barbaresco; Ca' del Bosco and the class of Franciacorta.
I tasted many other good wines at Vinexpo, but I just want to mention a few of them. First of all a tasting of the production of Kracher, the Austrian winery of the late Alois. I enjoyed greatly the tasting which confirmed the general high level of the whole collection, with a preference for the Grande Cuvee Nouvelle Vague number 6, a fantastic rich and balanced Trockenbeerenauslese. The tasting with the maison Chapoutier has also been very enjoyable, notably for the magnificent quality of all their Cote-Rotie La Mordorée and Hermitage Le Meal and Sizeranne. I also enjoyed a pleasant tasting with the Italian producer Gaja, covering both the Tuscan appendix (Pieve Santa Restituta at Montalcino and Ca'Marcanda at Bolgheri) and of course the main winery at Barbaresco. I only spent a small visit to the Champagne, where I appreciated the wines of Philipponnat, starting with a good Dosage Zero and finishing with the elegant and perfumed "Clos de Goisses". A last word on some burgundies that I enjoyed during the fair, notably the Chablis Le Clos 2007 of the Maison Faiveley, the Pouilly-Fuissé "Vers Cras" 2006 of the Chateau de Beauregard and the Vosne Romanee 2002 of Kerlann.
Well, possibly a note regarding a guided tasting where some Italian "bordelais" wines met the real bordelais. There was a clear loser, a Sassicaia 1998 that well defines the not great moment that this winery has been living recently. Concerning the winners, I was happy to see that San Leonardo 2001 (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Merlot) was standing well and "different" in front of wines like Chateau Pape Clement 2001, Chateau Trotanoy 2000 (the perfection of a Pomerol, balanced and so round that I was missing some angles) and Mouton Rothschild 2005.