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Gambero Rosso (vs Vinitaly): is it worth taking part in wine exhibitions in Russia?

Looking for wine importer is not an easy task, especially when you’re a stranger in the new market. Two major exhibitions for Italian wines in Russia are Vinitaly and Gambero Rosso (there’s actually Solo Italiano too), but is it worth taking part in them?

They’ve always competed with each other: Vinitaly and Gambero Rosso. But if the first one (under the strict leadership of Stevie Kim) evolved into a relatively sane event, where the crowd is compensated by a decent location, cloak-room, toilet and even (!) the glasses (good wine glasses are also a luxury these days), Gambero Rosso got into the swamp of three-glass hopelessness, and didn’t have willpower to get out.

Remember that Gambero Rosso that used to happen on the upper floors of the Moscow’s GUM? In fact, it was the same trash, but with a twinkle — the elitist soaring in the air was spoiled by policemen (militsia) suddenly invading the tasting hall after the event and dispersing people who’d forgotten to spit out two-bicchiere and three-bicchiere wines.

Gambero Rosso of the “D-Telegraph” period was a trash that the wine folks spoke of, dramatically shaking their heads. I am talking about both visitors and winemakers. For the sake of fairness I’d say finding unorthodox new wines is hard at Vinitaly too, still there is a feeling that the organizers’ iron grip and the strength of the Vinitaly brand can still pull at least some interesting wines from the local importers. Unwillingness to give bottles is understandable – any merchant is aware that a decent somm rejects to brake his/her elbows in pursuit of wines, which they have seen on the market for the last 20 years.

In the new and trendy Moscow’s “Depot” venue where the event was transferred this year, the half-dead patient continues to feel the same half-dead: hanging giant bagels over your head won’t help the wine atmosphere, there’s a queue for everything — to get the glasses, to get the clothes. And the smell of cooking food around won’t help your senses. Of course, how could the organizers know that “Depot” is in fact a food place with dozens of restaurants’ open kitchens around.

In addition to the fact that it’s physically difficult to try the wines at this event, Gambero Rosso has no intention of even trying to control the flow of guests. Such high-level organisation skills can only be demonstrated by those thinking about their visitors.

It’s virtually impossible to spit wine — and people get drunk real fast. As far as I know, GR is said to be a professional event. Unfortunately there’s not been much of professional attitude and guests during the recent years.

Investing into traveling all the way to Russia — and see THIS — I am really sorry for the Grandi Marchi. I was told the Saint-Petersburg event went better. I hope so.

For me and for wine producers Vinitaly will definitely remain the way to go in 2020, although the registration procedures are getting more secretive year after year — maybe for the better? And if you want to prepare your visit — work hard in advance — use publicity, invite the right people and use insiders’ help!

Buon Natale e un Felice Anno Nuovo. Ci vediamo nel 2020!