For many organic wine producers and those interested in buying their goods, January normally includes a trip to Montpellier in the Occitanie region of southern of France. Millésime Bio, a wine fair with a 28 year history, attracts producers and attendees from around the world.
It’s such a highlight in the organic wine and alcoholic beverage industry, that the event retained a typical schedule, this year running from January 25 – 27, with over 1,000 producers in attendance, including more than 150 new exhibitors. But there was one huge difference: everything was virtual.
An innovative digital platform allowed even more participants to meet with exhibitors, make connections and attend conference events. Virtual “booths” captured exhibitor background, contact information, technical sheets and details about featured wines.
3,000 visitors from 52 countries participated in more than 15,000 exchanges with fair exhibitors through unique online chat and video functionalities. While approximately half of the attendees were French, a large portion of interest came from international wine industry participants, led by Germany, Belgium, Canada and the United States.
Organized by trade association Sudvinbio, a highlight of the gathering is the Challenge Millésime Bio, the world’s largest international organic wine competition. This year journalist Andrew Jefford served as president of the contest, supported by a jury of qualified tasters. The prize list will be released on February 24.
The event was so successful that Sudvinbio has announced an unprecedented opportunity, reopening the Millésime Bio 2021 show platform on March 18 and 19. The fair is scheduled to return to an in-person format in January 2022.
The growth of the fair, despite the constraints of the global pandemic and vast reduction in travel opportunities, exhibits the potential of the market for organic wine and alcoholic beverages. According to a 2019 report by Millésime Bio, the French organic wine market grew at a rate of 16.8% in volume over the period 2012 – 2017. The organization expects a growth rate of around 14% per year over the period 2017 – 2022, which would allow the market to nearly double in volume in ten years (+ 85% by 2022).
“Consumption of organic produce, and notably of organic wine, continues to grow,” says Jeanne Fabre oenotourism director at Famille Fabre and president of the Millésime Bio commission. “This crisis is having an impact on consumer awareness with a marked shift towards a preference for ethical and sustainable, local, and organic produce.”
But it’s not only the French market benefiting from a sustained increase in organic wine. Austrian Wine, represented by head of international markets Michael Tischler-Zimmermann and Piccole Vigne del Piemonte represented by technical area manager of viticulture Vicki Saccuzzo each made presentations to conference attendees about organic wines from their regions. And wine producers from 16 countries out of Europe, South America and New Zealand participated as exhibitors.
“Guided by our wine producer identity, the fair is therefore reinventing itself for this very particular 28th edition,” says Fabre. “In order to remain now and always at the service of the producers and buyers of organic wine.”