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.