Thursday, 11 November 2010

Wine fairs

On the last two weekends, I've attended two different wine fairs. The first one was the Basler Weinmesse, Switzerland's second-biggest wine fair), the second a more local affair in Lörrach, Germany: "Hieber's Weinmesse". Armed with my new business cards, my respective visits were admittedly less about the wines and more about meeting winegrowers face to face and explaining what I have to offer from a translation perspective. It was a worthwhile experience for me on both occasions, and I even managed to get my face in the paper after the fair in Lörrach (click here; it's an unflattering photo: I'm the one smiling goofishly and looking deceptively thin as the man from Winzer Krems pours some Grüner Veltliner into my glass).

Aside from professional matters, some general observations:

The Basler Weinmesse was without doubt the bigger, slicker affair. Nevertheless, the fair in Lörrach is also very well organised (by local supermarket chain Hieber). At both fairs, the emphasis was both regional and international.

In Basel, you had stands devoted to Swiss growers from the Basel region and further afield, and stands devoted to wines from "old world" countries such as France and Italy (the latter being a firm Swiss favourite) and from the new world. Then there were the guest regions: Austria and the Geneva area.

In Lörrach, the "demographics" very much reflected the make-up of the wine community in Baden, i.e. cooperative-focused yet with a good handful of private properties. There was also a fair selection of wines presented from overseas.

On balance, I probably preferred the slightly cosier, more familiar experience offered in Lörrach. Set in a popular concert house, the event has become a firm fixture on the local social calendar. And I could see why. With room to mingle and free finger food (antipasti) included in the price of the ticket, the ingredients were there for having an enjoyable time. The idea of splitting the event into three distinct sessions (Fri night, Sat afternoon and Sat night) was also inspired, I thought. I went on the Saturday afternoon as the other two sessions were already sold out. This was probably the best option in hindsight, as I had more chance to devote enough time to all of the stands I visited.

There were a number of highlights, although the following two encounters stood out for me: 1) the lovely chat I had with Simone Lanz at the Basler Weinmesse and the beautiful Grüner Veltliners she poured me from Kremstal, and 2) talking in Lörrach with Martin Schärli, the head of operations at Weingut Kalkbödele and tasting his winery's gorgeous selection of Weiss-, Grau- and Spätburgunders.

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