Vinexpo, the international wine and spirits show, has announced a new initiative aimed at getting delegates 'out of the conference hall and into the vineyards and distilleries'.
Vinexpo Explorer will be an annual two-day immersion session in an 'up-and-coming' wine or spirits region for 100 hand-picked international wine buyers.
The first edition will be in Austria in September this year, but there is a long list of candidate regions, Vinexpo chief Guillaume Deglise said. 'Scotland and scotch whisky springs to mind, as well as regions such as Douro, Sonoma County, Western Australia, Greece or Languedoc.'
The two-day event will be 'very intense', Deglise promised, 'exploring everything about the region from wine and food to vineyards, stories and customs' through workshops, seminars, tastings and visits. 'Host countries and wine-producing regions will be provided with opportunities to penetrate new consumer markets and improve exports.'
Austria has been chosen first as 'one of the hottest rising destinations,' he said. 'Austrian wines are acclaimed by sommeliers, you see it on the lists of top restaurants, but it also has limited recognition.'
Vinexpo started in 1981 and is now one of the world's largest wine and spirits fairs. It takes place in Bordeaux, Hong Kong and Japan, and can offer the host country access to its formidable databases of international wine buyers.
Willi Klinger, managing director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, said they were delighted to be part of the initiative. 'This will enable us to transform image into sales,' he said. He reiterated Austria's increasing popularity as a wine region, and pointed out that in value terms in the UK it had the highest per-bottle average price – €6.00 – in Europe.
The 100 international buyers asked to take part in Vinexpo Explorer will be chosen on the basis of their appropriateness 'to the export development objectives of the hosting wine region', Vinexpo says.
Austria for example is focussing its export drive on Asia and the Americas, and so would expect a majority of the visiting group to come from those countries.
Klinger said he had high hopes for the success of the programme. 'If we can sell an additional million litres then I will be happy,' he said. Vinexpo Explorer wouldn't be all work and no play, he added. 'Partying with the Austrians is fun.'