ProWein has grown tremendously over its 25-year history. Its first iteration was held in 1994 under the name ProVins, picking up on a small presentation of French wine from a year earlier. While the Francophile name was retained, the spectrum of exhibitors expanded to include other countries. 321 vendors of still and sparkling wine and spirits presented their wares on February 23-24, 1994 in Düsseldorf. The entire collection of exhibitors, hailing from Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Columbia, Austria, Portugal, Spain and Hungary, fit into a single fairgrounds hall. 1,517 visitors were recorded at that first event, 250 of them traveling in from other European nations, primarily France. From the start, ProWein was open exclusively to trade visitors from the retail and restaurant industries. This strict standard has contributed significantly to the success of the event.
Based on the strong feedback from both ProVins visitors and exhibitors, a second edition was planned for 1995. At that time the fair renamed itself to fit the various languages present — ProVins, ProVino, ProWine and of course ProWein. This time around, 532 stands were booked across two exhibition halls. The tasting zone (in cooperation with “Weinwirtschaft” magazine from the Meininger Verlag) celebrated its premiere.
1996 saw the trade fair take on its familiar three-day duration, starting on a Sunday. And since 1997 the trade fair has been marketed under one single name: ProWein. The current logo also came into use at that point. An important threshold was crossed in 1997, with 1,065 exhibitors from 25 countries. Michael Mondavi was also personally on hand to present wines from his California estate Mondavi. In the years to come, other big names would follow him: including the Rothschild family, Gaia Gaja, Miguel Torres and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger. Wine critics like Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker began making the pilgrimage to Düsseldorf as well. There was also a contingent of show business stars, including Sting, Chris de Burgh and Gérald Depardieu, seeking to use ProWein as a platform to introduce their wines to the trade audience. With each new milestone, the importance of ProWein continued to grow. An article in British wine magazine “Harpers” on ProWein 2013 perhaps expressed it best: “The Wine World lands on Planet ProWein”
Program of supplemental events: broad and colorful
A strong program of events to supplement the ProWein exhibition has also developed wonderfully over the years. Almost 500 events are currently offered, spanning across all three days of the fair. The spectrum ranges from guided tastings on specific regions and varieties to expert lectures on markets and trends. The core idea: events are held directly at the exhibitors’ stands or, starting with ProWein 2013, at the ProWein Forum. There are also additional offerings for trade visitors, such as the central tasting zone operated by the Meininger Verlag. Since 2015, it has been a single source for all the winning wines from MUNDUS VINI, its annual spring tasting competition.
A special presentation entitled “wine’s best friends” was run between 2007 and 2014, offering selected delicacies that pair particularly well with wine and spirits. It was replaced in 2015 by a new special exhibit: “same but different.” This was initially intended as a venue for unusual and innovative ideas in the areas of wine production and marketing. The concept was tweaked for ProWein 2018: “same but different” now provides craft product vendors with an entire exhibition hall of their own to present their wares.
Another notable fixture since 2007 is the fizzz Lounge, organized by the MEININGER Verlag; it sits within the “same but different” craft show, presenting the latest cocktail trends.
A Champagne Lounge has also been added. Featuring elegant styling, it establishes an appropriate platform for tradition-rich Champagne producers and brands.
In its 25th year, ProWein has become the leading trade fair for the international wine and spirits industry, and serves as an annual industry highlight, central gathering point and platform for order generation. Demand for larger booth space continues to rise, even as a growing number of presenters from a growing number of countries are requesting a spot in Düsseldorf. ProWein 2018 featured 6,378 exhibitors from 67 countries. Among them were twenty businesses and organizations from Germany, France, Greece, Italy and Austria who have been loyal presenters since that first ProWein in 1994.
Excluding special exhibits, the 2018 roster of exhibitors covered a paid surface of over 73,348 square meters — compared with the 2,914 square meters needed at the premiere in 1994. The visitor numbers have also grown enormously. ProWein 2018 counted 60,500 visitors from 133 countries, with 54 percent coming from outside Germany. That same figure stood at less than 14 percent at ProWein 2002. A growing number of international visitors are traveling to Düsseldorf each year from all relevant wine import and consumption markets.
A success from the start
The three pillars for success have remained constant over the years: ProWein attendance is strictly limited to professionals in the wine and spirits industry, with a focus on retail and restaurants. All visitors must prove their qualifications to receive admission. ProWein is organized by one of the most experienced and successful German trade fair operators, Messe Düsseldorf. With roughly 50 trade fairs, including 23 branch-leading events at the Düsseldorf location and roughly 70 in-house events, joint ventures and commissioned events abroad, Messe Düsseldorf Group is one of the world’s leading export platforms. Messe Düsseldorf’s central location also offers an ideal infrastructure and ensures — given that it is not located in any wine region — a certain neutral status. The industry can focus entirely on the trade fair activity going on within the halls.
ProWein’s success story is not limited solely to Düsseldorf. The first ProWine China was held in 2013 in Shanghai. This laid the cornerstone for what has since become a highly successful network of international ProWein satellite events. Roughly 4,000 exhibitors from 40 countries have taken part in ProWine China since then, to an audience of roughly 70,000 trade visitors; growth has continued unabated.
ProWine Asia celebrated its premiere three years later in Singapore. That event in 2016, with 7,300 visitors to roughly 260 exhibitors, proved so successful that ProWine Asia followed a year later in Hong Kong, with 310 exhibitors and over 12,000 wine industry visitors. Since then, ProWine Asia has rotated each spring between Singapore and Hong Kong. The two fairs complement each other perfectly: while ProWine Asia can reach out to the Southeast Asian market from Singapore (40 percent of the visitors to the most recent ProWine Asia in 2018 came from outside Singapore), the event in Hong Kong beckons to the surrounding markets. ProWine China by contrast is focused solely on mainland China.
ProWein’s history to date has been one of success, and the future chapters should be just as fascinating.
ProWein’s French roots
Today’s ProWein simply wouldn’t exist without the hard work of France as a winegrowing country back in 1994. That engagement will be honored at ProWein 2019 with a special booklet offering a detailed presentation of the French wine regions at ProWein. The booklet will be distributed in advance of ProWein 2019.