Guillaume Deglise: Meet the Showman

He is French. He speaks five languages. He loves and collects wine. He has sold champagne. Who better to run Vinexpo? Christian Davis meets Guillaume Deglise


Gillaume Deglise was a shoe-in for the job of taking over Vinexpo, the huge wine and spirits exhibition organisation that runs shows in Bordeaux, Hong Kong and now Tokyo. But to those who know his flamboyant predecessor, Robert Beynat, filling those large shoes will be difficult.

Within a few minutes of meeting Deglise, you realise that notion is, to use a bit of English vernacular, a load of cobblers. Deglise may not have that old-fashioned Hollywood-style winning smile and presence that Beynat had – and probably still has. But his command of English is superb – Monsieur Beynat was prone to occasional gaffs – plus he is extremely bright. Sharp as a knife, as they say.

Yes, he may appear unprepossessing (the picture hardly does him justice) compared to the tall, elegant, name-dropping Beynat full of bonhomie, but with Deglise you detect a keen sense of purpose which is offset by an acute sense of humour. This man knows where he is going. In his own quiet way, he’s a charmer.

Born in Nancy in northern France, the 40-year-old has the task of revamping the organisation and, in particular the Bordeaux show, which has its critics. In London last month, he took to the rostrum and ran off a stream of initiatives to put Vinexpo Bordeaux back on track. Was it a coincidence that in the same week Prowein officials were in London and the London Wine Fair announced some of the events and features to tempt people out of their offices and away from their PCs, Macs and smartphones?

So, with no vineyards in the vicinity of Nancy, where did Deglise acquire his love of wine? He studied commerce at the Dijon School of Trade in 1996 and there he fell in love with Burgundy and Pinot Noir. “I looked for jobs in the wine business,” he tells Drinks International. Champagne house Bollinger was looking for an area manager and he got the job. “It was great schooling for me. I love Burgundy and I love Pinot Noir but maybe I should not say that now that I am based in Bordeaux,” he quips.

His wife is Spanish and she works for a bodega near Barcelona. That explains how he has come to speak Spanish. As to Portuguese, he says: “My wife is a Catalan and Portuguese is close to Catalan. A lot of the words and intonation are very similar.”

After Bollinger, he worked for Laurent-Perrier, responsible for Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Canada, the Caribbean and South America. He ended up general manager for L-P Switzerland. Much travelled, Deglise obviously has an ear for languages.

His love of wine has meant he was travelled in that cause. Asked about New World Pinots, he doesn’t appear too enamoured of Chilean but speaks lovingly of Oregon examples and has made a pilgrimage to New Zealand to visit big names such as Felton Road and actor Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks right down in Central Otago at the foot of South Island.

As to his absolute favourites, they are the traditional wines to the north. He cites Chablis specifically, then says: “I love crisp wines with minerality and low in alcohol. I love German and Austrian wines. German wines have changed so much – they have more finesse.” With his innate diplomacy on hold, Deglise says emphatically: “I think Germany makes the best Riesling on the face of the earth.” That will upset the Austrians. Smaller stand next time round?

So from selling wine he loves to selling space – what made him jump? “I probably needed a new challenge but I wanted to stay in the wine business,” he says. “I would not have gone to an exhibition organiser unless it was in the wine and spirits business. Obviously, it is a different business but it is still close to the industry.

“I will miss talking about wine. I will now have to talk about space. It is a new challenge,” he says with a smile. “Instead of talking to just one producer about his wine, I will now have to deal with many.”

Deglise is not daunted by the challenge. He goes on to present the new ‘second generation’ Vinexpo to a room full of journalists, reeling off a huge tranche of IWSR statistics to prove that the wine and spirits industry is in rude health and needs a new, modern Vinexpo to display its products, not forgetting the all important networking aspect. The journalists are left with hand ache and repetitive strain injuries from all the facts and stats flung at them.

“A lot of people feel they have to go to Vinexpo. I want to change that to: ‘Good, I feel like going.’ I want people to rediscover Vinexpo and find it innovative and welcoming.”

To that end Deglise unveiled a raft of new initiatives to make Vinexpo altogether better. They included new designs for exhibition spaces, better access and services, free tasting areas, better catering and The Blend, a venue on the banks of the Garonne for late night networking reminiscent of the TFWA’s The Scene at its show in Cannes. 

The icing on the cake for many Vinexpo veterans has to be a new tramline which gets you to the exhibition site from the centre of Bordeaux in 15-20 mins. For those of us in the know, let us hope they retain the bus shuttles as there will be a limit as to how many trams they can put on the one line and a limit to how many poor souls each tramcar will accommodate.

So the shoes are filled. They will need to be sensible ones for getting round that huge exhibition site to make sure the welcoming banners and bunting are up and all the new initiatives are up and running. 

Anyway, job done in terms of curtain raising. It may be worth taking a peek this year. Don’t forget the sensible shoes.