jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The London Trade Fair can be a little daunting to the uninitiated. Itís a big, sprawling show, largely populated by glitzy multi-tiered stands full of guys in suits. On the whole they are peddling uninteresting commercial dross. I guess the world needs commercial dross, but it doesnít really interest me. For those seeking interesting wines, perhaps the best rule of thumb is this: the grander the stand the duller the wine. Letís face it: exhibiting at the fair costs a *lot* of money. I heard one importer complain yesterday that for the price of a modest presence at the trade fair, they could afford to send each of their customers a case of wine every week for the next year. Itís not surprising therefore that the chief presence at the fair is large outfits selling very commercial wines. Bigger is not usually better in the wine world.

Perhaps your best bet of discovering something interesting is at one of the stands run by a national association. South Africa and Austria, for example, have dozens of producers each with their own mini-stand under the umbrella of the national wine body. This works quite well. Alternatively, some agents have the producers within their portfolios represented, so thereís always a chance that one or two interesting producers will be found here.

On the whole, though, for wine geeks the trade fair has just a few nuggets of gold well hidden in the midst of mediocrity. Iím sorry if this sounds overly negative. But thatís the way it is in the wine world. Wine is fabulously interesting and diverse, but the interesting stuff generally needs to be sought out. The shape of the modern marketplace tends to favour more Ďcommercialí wines. The really fascinating stuff is often made in small quantities (and thus is quite hard to get) or is in such demand that producers really donít need to go to huge trade fairs to promote it.


At 3:47 PM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Agree completely with you Jamie.However,it is worth going,just to meet old friends and have a gossip!!
Also your point about the industry stands, like South Africa is very valid. I tasted a range of the countries excellent Sauvignons,and was very pleased to taste the new and tiny winery Fryers Cove,which IMHO is better than Cape Point,Steenberg ,Iona etc

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Yes, definitely worth going, but there's this uneasy coexistence between real and fake wine at events like this. I shall look out for Fryers cove. Your last recco - TMV - was spot on. In fact I bumped into George Austin at the fair and he had two wines on him (Viktoria and Syrah Mourvedre) which he let me try.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

The trick is not to try and do it all.

I'd also add that it's nice to chat with the winemakers. It's not often you get to see the likes of 3 generations of Hochars and Lalou Bize-Leroy in person (last year's treat was Sandra Tavares, not here this time). The South African winemakers were great fun, particularly Adi from Rustenberg. Interesting talking to him about how these new super yeasts have been resulting in increasingly high levels of alcohol from musts of traditional brix levels. From the frying pan of stuck fermentations into the fire of 16% alc... At the other end of the spectrum, the French-speaking wine maker at Le Soula/Gauby who says that the vigour of biodynamic vines means he can pick apparently unripe grapes to end up with 12% alc. Really lovely wines, those.

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Mark

The most interesting aspect of the fair for me was the attempt by a number of excellent small French wine makers (Authentic French Wines et al) to come together to have a presence at the fair and offer an effective distribution platform from across multiple regions. The problem was that they were completely out gunned by the dross. Would be interested on your thoughts (and others) on these platform groupings and if they have any chance in the current UK market?

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Adi Badenhorst is a dude, isn't he? I enjoyed spending some time with him in South Africa in December.


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