Busy at the London International Wine Fair

The middle of May. The time in the calendar when our focus is on the London International Wine Fair. Love it, hate it, it’s something none of us can miss. And this year, I’ve been enjoying it more than ever before.

I remember my first London trade fair. Not all that long ago: I felt a bit of a fraud, crashing someone else’s party, as a guy with a website, moonlighting as a wine writer. In truth, even the established press are slightly like outsiders: the main focus of the fair is on doing deals and making business happen. At least, now, I have some level of visibility and so people are usually happy to speak to me and show me their wines.

Aside from gigs (speaking on panels, etc.) I have  just been wandering round seeing what catches my eye. The fair seems a little less crowded than in previous years, which is great if you are a journalist, but not so good if you are one of the conference organizers. It makes the whole experience more relaxed, and I have enjoyed tasting some interesting wines.

Best stand? Wines of South Africa’s new concept stand. It’s just brilliantly thought out, with some wonderful wines arranged in little self-pour clusters according to different themes.

Pictured, from top to bottom: Paul Symington; The Chene Bleu team – Jean-Louis Galluchi, Laura Iverson and Nicole Rolet; Chris Blandy (Madeira); Mike Ratcliffe; Andre Morgenthal on the WOSA stand; Ruud Maasdam of Staete Landt; Ilkka Siren, finish blogger/wine writer.

5 comments to Busy at the London International Wine Fair

  • Alex Lake

    Quiet this year. Do you think that’s just because of less riff-raff, or an across-the-board reduction of interest?

    Saw some very interesting wines (lychee wine from India, for example) in need of UK distribution and I will try to put a few people in touch with potential partners, but it’s a tough business.

  • Laurence

    I enjoyed the fair; some very interesting wines and interesting people. (Good to say hello to you Jamie, in particular!). I am not sure that they were harder on the riff -raff; they let me in after all! Anyway, I also liked the South African stand, until I saw the ‘Black – Owned Brands stand’. It jarred that in this day and age the South African wine marketing body viewed it worthy of comment. I want to buy good wine, and I want black farmers to have a level (even slightly biased) playing field, but having ‘black-owned’ alongside ‘punchy pinotage’ and ‘sexy sauvignons’ (or whatever their titles were), seemed wrong.

  • Tim Carlisle

    Your’re right on the WOSA stand, almost certainly didn’t cost the earth in terms of build like the big stands of PRB, Percy Fox and the like either.
    The days where you could stand behind a counter and expect things to happen is gone. You need a stand that you can approach and taste and make judgement without some poor producer sat there waiting until you have to make a polite but quick getaway.
    If I was looking for a SA Pinot there were a selection that WOSA would recommend particularly – and generally their choice of wines seemed to be well thought out and on the money.

    Contrast that to the Spanish or Italian areas made up of booths that mean you need to speak to 30 people to try and find something. I’m not sure how much real business is carried out now, we get supplier to visit us and bring or send samples of things we’re interested in because we’re trying to build a balanced range across price points but I do make a point of spending one of the days I’m there visiting suppliers and trying to taste things that I haven’t tried before that way I have an idea of what else might be interesting when we change our range or need something for a particular use.

  • Yes, some of the more ‘traditional’ stands were pretty empty. I hardly saw anyone at the very expensive looking Loire installation and some of the other French and Italian stands were also a bit ghostly. I agree that the old format may be passing. Everyone is used to getting instant gratification these days and don’t necessarily want to stand eye to eye with some overgroomed guy in a suit giving you the same spiel about their wines. Well at least I don’t.
    @Tim Just for your info the wines on the WOSA stand were not so much selected by the body as submitted by the producers. WOSA decided on the pods and then producers could pay to include their wines. So if you enjoyed the wines that were there for tasting, you can also assume that the producers involved had the kahunas to try something a bit new, when many in South Africa choose to criticize without offering suggestions.

  • Having worked several trade shows in the software trade and now been to my 3rd LIWF, it seemed as though the wine industry was catching on with more interactive style stands like South Africa.

    Long gone are the days where people will just roll up…. you need to attract the attention and offer some level of customer service and experience when people get there.

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