I attended the World’s Leading Wines trade tasting and dinner in NY this week representing Rotes Haus wines of Austria.   As many of you know through first hand experience, one of the key challenges many, if not most, off shore wineries and spirit producers face is finding an importer in the U.S.

Unlike in Europe where trade shows such as ProWein, VinExpo, Vinitaly and the London Wine Fair cater to that business need, there’s really nothing of scale in the U.S. that does.

We found two programs that are attempting to close that gap, one called World’s Leading Wines and the other is World Wine Meetings which held a solo event in Chicago in April. I attended World’s Leading Wines event in NY last week as both a speaker and a winery representative.

Some background on WLW:  It’s run by an entrepreneurial trade show company in the UK called Commerce Interact run by Paul Catchpole and ably assisted by Chris Atkins.  WLW held a road show with events in NY, Chicago and San Francisco in the U.S. and Asian events planned for later this year in Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai

Approx. 20 people representing 38 wineries presented to 37 importers and 44 trade (on/off-sale) at the New York event held June 18 at the Plaza Athenee hotel.  WLW asked me to give a presentation on options to import wine in the U.S. for the exhibiting wineries.  You can check it out on Slide Share

I also participated representing Rotes Haus, a wonderful winery run by our friend Paul Kiefer in Austria.  Rotes Haus and its sister brand Mayer am Pfarrplatz are small production, estate grown wines produced in Vienna.  As some of you may know, Vienna is one of the few, if only capital cities in Europe with commercial production of wine within the city limits.  Rotes Haus produces some exquisite Gruner Veltliners and is looking for an importer to represent the brand in the US.

My takeaway from the show was that there’s clearly a definitive need for something like this in the U.S., and WLW is a good first step.  Well organized and efficiently run it attracted an interesting but limited mix of importers, on and off premise retailers and key trade folks.  However my attendance did reinforce my thinking that there is an opportunity to improve on the structure.  A walk around tasting is a convenient way to sample the wares of a variety of producers, but whether it’s a small scale event like WLW or a massive one like ProWein, it’s still sort of random.  They rely on the diligence of the attendee to know in advance of who’s exhibiting and then to match that with their specific need.

I’m thinking there’s got to be a better way.