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On 1–3 November, the capital of Ukraine hosted the Wine & Spirits Ukraine exhibition of wine and alcohol. The D+ observer collected the opinions and impressions of the participants.
The Wine & Spirits Ukraine exhibition is one of the most significant events in the wine and spirits industry, and this year, despite all the wartime difficulties, it brought together the country’s best winemakers for the fifth time. The event included an exposition of Ukrainian producers and importers, the WS Awards tasting competition, and the Wine & Spirits Congress. During the exhibition, Drinks+ Communications Media Group presented the first iteration of DRINKS+ magazine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, dedicated to our heroic winemakers, importers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, and other enthusiasts who make the industry work today.
According to Wine & Spirits Ukraine CEO Victoria Agromakova, the number of participants has increased significantly compared to the previous spring exhibition: 53 exhibitors, including 50 Ukrainian producers. It is the largest number of Ukrainian exhibitors in the history of the exhibition. This year, many new exhibitors participated in the event: Alcoline/Bolgrad, Chateau Pinot, Narovylo Winery, etc. The energy and motivation with which our winemakers, craft beverage producers, and distillers continue their business in such a difficult time is impressive!
Despite the war, there were also foreign participants: the brother of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now under arrest by the country’s pro-Russian leadership, came to Kyiv and presented a wine made in his honour; there were importers from Estonia, representatives from Israel and Lithuania, etc. This year, 3,291 participants attended the exhibition.
Another positive point is the record number of medals in the history of the tasting competition: 132 (including 7 platinum, 66 gold, 43 silver, and 16 bronze).
Victoria Agromakova commented on the event: “At first, we doubted whether we should hold another competition, as the last one we had in spring. But we felt a great demand and decided to repeat the tasting competition in November. After all, we were approached by many winemakers, for whom the competition is a professional opinion, a confirmation that they are doing everything right. We made four commissions instead of three because there were so many wines. Moreover, every year the jury notes that the quality of the wines is growing exponentially.”
Another difference in the autumn exhibition is that while in spring there were many ordinary wine lovers among the visitors, now 95% of the visitors are professionals and buyers, which is very useful for the participating wineries, who are now particularly cautious about marketing activities and related costs. The exhibition was very lively, with a significant number of visitors – even though they needed to buy tickets this time (100% of ticket sales we are going to use to support a Wine & Spirits Ukraine employee who is currently fighting at the front).
Another sign of Ukrainian wine market development: this time, there were two collective stands at the exhibition – the Association of Craft Winemakers (where 10 producers were represented) and the Association of Craft Distillers. For some participants, it was their first appearance in the world: for example, we can mention the wines of Valeriy Narovylo, which were awarded gold medals at the competition. According to Victoria Agromakova, the organisers used to not accept producers who did not yet have a production licence, but now with rules facilitation, we can state that medals at the competition give small winemakers an additional incentive to obtain a licence and move on. This allows them to reach a new level of production.
Today, it is trendy to drink Ukrainian wine and support small producers, so for craft winemakers, the exhibition is an impetus for development, an incentive to turn a hobby into a business. That is why Wine & Spirits Ukraine also holds seminars for craft producers under the auspices of the Association of Craft Winemakers of Ukraine, the first of which took place in the summer. At the seminars, winemakers can learn about the details of obtaining a licence, accounting rules, and get professional answers to their questions.
Thus, Wine & Spirits exhibition still maintains its reputation as a traditional meeting place for wine, spirits, and beer producers, experts, sommeliers, retailers, restaurateurs, importers, and distributors from all regions of Ukraine and abroad.
The autumn Wine & Spirits exhibition included several events at once:
For exhibitors, such events are a great opportunity not only to meet colleagues and partners but also to meet potential customers and gather new contacts. Feedback from guests and exhibitors has repeatedly confirmed this.
Oksana Buyachok, co-founder of Father’s Winery, notes the successful outcome: “My impressions of the Wine & Spirits exhibition held in November this year are surprisingly positive. The key point of such an event is communication: meetings with new market players (winemakers, buyers, HoReCa representatives, publishers, etc.), with already familiar colleagues, and with professionals in the wine and spirits field. Therefore, the exhibition is an opportunity to gather useful contacts and discuss plans and experiences of overcoming crises. It is positive that Ukrainian producers together with foreign guests attended the event: for example, we were very pleased to welcome our partners from Estonia.”
Valeriy Narovylo, founder and chief winemaker of Narovylo Winery, who won a gold medal at the WS Awards for his wines Odesa Black, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Aged Chardonnay, also speaks of the successful participation: “This is a first experience for us: it is the first time we participate in such an exhibition. It was an interesting experience, so we liked everything. The main point I would like to note is communication with potential buyers and meetings with colleagues. Besides, it was a great competition! I got absolutely pleasant emotions from the exhibition.”
Olena Krapivina, Leading Marketing Specialist at Prestige Group, also notes the benefits of the exhibition for the exchange of experience (Olena joined the pool of DRINKS+ columnists and debuted as the author of an article about the formation of the Wine of Ukraine brand during the war in the magazine #1, 2023): “Thank you to the organisers! I would like to note the high level of service and conscientious staff. One of the most useful aspects of the exhibition for us is, of course, the target audience, guests, and representatives of the HoReCa sector. We communicate and share experiences. Everything was great!”
For most participants, such events are primarily image-building, as they allow them not only to find new contacts but also to increase brand visibility and find new fans of their products. This is what Olena Platko from Stakhovsky Wines says: “We enjoyed the exhibition this time. Especially the way everything was organised: clean glasses that were always delivered on time, convenience, and speed of service. This is very important because we do not spend extra time on preparation. I would also like to say something about people: the audience is relevant – retailers and representatives of the HoReCa sector are interested in our wines. They ask about technologies and varieties, new products in the range. For us, this is primarily an image participation.”
Sergey Parkhomchuk, Marketing Director at Prince Trubetskoi Winery: “I liked everything! Compared to the previous exhibition, today there are more producers represented and more guests. Moreover, visitors are from all over Ukraine. For us, this is primarily an information component. And this is the key. We talk about our brand, about the winery, which is almost on the front line. The second component is contacts: both consumers and market professionals come to the exhibition. Chains, restaurants, and distributors are represented here. Even foreigners have come, ignoring the war. For example, guests from Estonia. Finally, it is worth noting the image component, the presence of a competition. It is important for us because we have seen our strengths.”
The three days of work at our stand at Wine & Spirits for the Drinks+ Communication Media Group were also very fruitful. First of all, we informed our colleagues, partners, and potential Ukrainian WTA nominees about the start of the new 2023–2024 season of the innovative Wine Travel Awards project.
In addition, despite the war and the difficult situation for the Ukrainian market, the first issue of DRINKS+ magazine for this year was published and presented to guests and exhibitors just in time for the exhibition opening.
It is a special edition of Wine&War. Ukrainian Chronicles which includes useful and interesting cases from the key players in the wine and spirits industry in Ukraine lives: stories of doing business during the war, and overcoming challenges and crises by importers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, and winemakers. In addition, the issue features our cultural achievements and unfortunate human losses. It is a kind of chronicle of the Ukrainian wine industry during the war. We wanted to introduce the world to our country and our industry’s heroic presence.
The next stop of the magazine’s distribution is Enoexpo/HoReCa–2023 in Krakow (8–10 November). Later, the magazine will be available to participants and exhibitors at international exhibitions in Germany (Düsseldorf), France (Paris), the UK (London), and Italy (Verona).