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“Foire aux vins” wine promotions see wine-lovers bubbling with excitement

The first wine-only fair was inaugurated in Colmar almost a century ago, in 1927. But it was not until 1973 that the event had matured enough to give rise to the annual “Foire aux vins” wine promotions as we know them today. For wine-lovers, this annual promotion has become the not-to-be-missed event of the back-to-school period, with one out of every two French people of legal age taking part. You just need to know how to read between the (product) lines.

Boosted by mass market retail

It was E. Leclerc hypermarkets that really saw the “Foire aux vins” promotions take off in 1973. At the time, pretty much the only wines stocked by mass market retailers fell into the lower-quality “table wines” category. Determined to break with the image of the good, honest bottle of wine sold at an exorbitant price, the chairman of the E. Leclerc buying group began to canvass major wine dealers to convince them to sell their best vintages at more attractive prices. This also gave wine-growers the opportunity to clear some space in their cellars and fill their coffers before the new harvest came in. The “Foire aux vins” was born.


Over-hyped sales push or genuine bargain?

To claim that these annual wine promotions are not commercially valuable would be to deny the obvious: around 80 million bottles are sold during the “Foire aux vins” period each year, generating €400-600 million in revenue. However, the idea that they are nothing but a massive sell-off aimed at shifting mediocre wines is a far cry from the truth.
On the contrary: such is the competition between mass market retailers, wine merchants and online retailers that the “Foire aux vins” is a genuine opportunity to unearth some great deals. 




Reading between the (product) lines

While no one can be expected to become a wine connoisseur overnight, there’s no need to be put off by the wide variety of less obvious wines on offer. One way to be ready to spot a good deal is to read specialist magazines (RVF, Gault & Millau, etc.) and weeklies that publish a special “Foire aux vins” issue (Le Point, Le Figaro Magazine, etc.). Beyond that, speed is of the essence: the best deals tend to fly off the shelves. It can pay to take a bold approach, for example by visiting the local supermarket the day before the promotion officially opens: the wines are usually already in place, specialist wine advisors are on hand to answer questions, and customers have all the space they need to wander among the “works of art” on show…
Follow your gut: if an entire stock of 2013 wine suddenly reappears on the shelves, it could be that the entire stock was unsold… and perhaps unsaleable.
But don’t limit yourself to wines from exceptional years, which are often overpriced: the trick is to invest in good vintages that have been unfairly shunned (an example from the past would be 2004).
Remember that the same retailers don’t necessarily stock the best deals from one year to the next. 


2020: great opportunities beckon

While no one can be happy about the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, it could have a beneficial effect on this year’s “Foire aux vins” promotions: exports are down and the sector has lost a full quarter’s worth of sales to the catering industry, resulting in significant unsold stocks. Prices should adjust accordingly.



Sources : AFB, Régal, lepetitballon.com

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