What if you could sample the best of French wine, British gin, Japanese sake, and Mexican mezcal all in one place? What if you could not only taste what’s in the bottles but also talk to — and learn from — the people behind the label?
At Vinexpo America | Drinks America on March 8 and 9, 2023, adult beverage buyers and purveyors gathered in New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to do just that. The simultaneous, trade-only events featured Vinexpo America’s wine alongside Drinks America’s spirits, beer, sake, and drinks accessories. All in one place, global exhibitors showcased their wares, while attendees saw and sampled the flavors and innovations that are shaping the beverage world right now.
Since it began in 1981, Vinexpo has been held in countries including France, China, the Netherlands, and India. The North American event, previously known as Vinexpo New York, has continued to expand following its rebrand last year.
“Our exhibit space is up by about 30 percent, so it’s a much larger event [this year],” Beckie Kier, the Diversified Communications group event director, told VinePair. “Our attendance in the pre-registration numbers was up by about 25 percent, so the show is growing, which is very exciting.”
This growth was palpable in the atmosphere as attendees buzzed around, wine glasses in hand. The sounds of pouring liquid, clinking glasses, and enthusiastic chatter filled the hall as beverage enthusiasts explored the most exciting products and ideas in the industry, from near and far.
Sipping Around the World
As Vinexpo America | Drinks America attendees wandered through the Javits Center’s Hall 3, they took a drinks tour around the world, sipping sake from Japan and wines from the south of France. The event welcomed 440 exhibitors who represented 32 countries across the globe, as well as alcohol industry insiders from 40 U.S. states, plus Canada and Mexico.
This year’s new purveyors brought both innovation and tradition to their tables. Vojvodina Wines brought wines from Serbia’s Fruška gora wine route, where Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus planted grapes 1,700 years ago. These “new” Old World wines fused the region’s rich winemaking history with fresh, new blends. Meanwhile, the South Korean aroma company Scentone brought its expertise in scents and tastes — whether medicinal, nutty, tropical, or spicy — that pair best with beer, liquor, and wine. And Japan’s Okinawa Distillers Association brought Awamori, a 600-year-old distilled spirit made from long-grain indica rice from Thailand, to the party.
Beyond the beverage pavilions, experts hosted master classes and “Buzz” sessions, which explored trending topics, tools, and techniques in the beverage industry. One of the most popular master classes was “Bubbles and Chocolate: How to Pair Ecuadorian Chocolates with Sparkling Wines of the World,” a collaboration between Doug Frost of Echolands Winery and Gabriela Pozo of the Ecuadorian Association of Sommeliers and MUZE Ecuadorian Chocolate. Riedel Wines presented their popular Riedel Glassware Seminar, which showed how the size and shape of a glass can affect how the wine inside is enjoyed. Attendees of that seminar each walked away with their own set of Riedel glasses. Other notable conference sessions included the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s Inclusive Leadership Panel and a Sustainable Wine Round Table featuring speakers from various wine estates.
The event also welcomed new pavilions from countries such as South Africa, Iran, and Romania. “The South African pavilion is a group of majority women-owned enterprises that have been in business for years but have challenges with market access” Kier said. “This year at Vinexpo America | Drinks America, the black women-owned enterprises got the opportunity to showcase their award winning wines. There could not have been a better time for this, considering the market opportunity towards women owned business support.”
Trends of the Trade
Given that Vinexpo America | Drinks America was attended by drinks industry trendsetters, it offered a glimpse into key trends to look out for in the coming year.
The convenient, ready-to-drink offerings on display ranged from XXI Martinis’ ready-to-serve Martinis and META Hard Elixir’s seltzers to Slim Chillers’ frozen cocktail popsicles. Low- and no-alcohol options continue to be on the rise, as shown by alcohol-free gin and tonics from Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Distillery, Curious Elixirs’ booze-free craft cocktails, Surely Wines’ non-alcoholic wines, and low-alcohol wines by South Africa’s Perdeberg Cellar and New York’s Wölffer Estate winery. Seiers Scandinavian Craft Bitters showcased bitters made from hand-picked organic produce, and winemakers like Domaine de Brau of France and Ventisquero Wine Estates of Chile showcased their organic and sustainable wines.
Along with the beverages themselves, there was a lot of creative packaging on display. When chilled to the optimal temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit, Global Spirits’ Khor Vodka bottle transformed to a frosted blue color. CIV USA-Garcia Carrion showcased their new Jaume Serra Bouquet Cava Brut N.V. in a bottle that resembled an upside-down bouquet of red roses. Nordic Gin House unveiled new craft gins in bottles inspired by traditional pharmacy bottles, updated with classic Scandinavian minimalist design.
At the end of the event, the many empty bottles that remained were recycled. “We’ve worked with the Javits Center to develop some sustainability initiatives around the disposal of the leftover wine and the bottles that get emptied,” Kier said. “Those are all recycled after the event with a local company.”
What can we expect from Vinexpo America | Drinks America next year?
“We certainly plan to continue the growth,” Kier said. “The goal is to become the meeting place for the U.S. beverage alcohol community. We are putting a lot of emphasis on growing the drinks portion of the event next year, and just continuing to bring people together.”
We’re excited to see the drinks developments and continued sense of community that 2024 brings. For now, check out Vinexpo’s website to subscribe and stay tuned on the 2024 event.
We’ll see you there!
This article is sponsored by Vinexpo America.