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Survival of the fittest

If you’re visiting the 25th London International Wine & Spirit Fair you can expect a beast of a show. But watch out for the llamas and zebras, says Penny Boothman, it’s a jungle out there

ROLL UP, roll up for the UK wine and spirit industry’s favourite three-day event.  From May 17-19, London’s Docklands will once again be thronging with happy fair-goers. 

2005 marks the 25th anniversary of the show and it will be even bigger and busier than ever before, so a little forward planning is invaluable. Who to see? What to taste? Which events to attend?

With a glass in one hand and a stack of business cards in the other we sally forth to help you get the best out of the most important, and enjoyable, international business opportunity of the year.

But firstly, why should you take three days out of the office in the busy early summer period to be there? "There are almost too many reasons to name," says James Murray of Brintex. "From lead generation, to PR, to brand building, test marketing, highlighting new products and  vintages – the list is almost endless and everyone has their own reason for exhibiting.

"We know a lot of the people who come have very specific objectives, although we also know that networking within the industry is a major driver," says Murray.  And it’s true; one of the reasons it takes so long to get around the show is that we’re all so busy chatting.

However, "If you look at the show overall, what drives us in comparison to some of the other international shows is that we’re very much focused on business.  As a member of the off-trade or on-trade, it’s keeping that edge over your competition.

It’s about having an overview of the global industry, maintaining relationships with existing suppliers, but also looking at new suppliers, education, awareness, it’s a whole host of things," says Murray.

But obviously it’s not just the exhibitors that benefit. "Three of the key reasons why visitors come is to taste and compare new products, strengthen existing business contacts and to look for new suppliers.

Ultimately, if you’re not there then you’re going to miss out and it’s a very competitive marketplace out there," he continues.  "There’s the whole winemaker experience too; it’s rare that you find so many winemakers under one roof and actually get to meet these guys and listen to them in seminars."

Brintex set up the Advisory Board in 2000 to advise on the development of the fair from a domestic and international perspective, and this year Adrian McKeon, managing director of Allied Domecq Wines UK (ADWUK), has taken on the role of chairman.

Commenting on his new position, McKeon says, "I’m honoured to be invited to play a part in the UK drink trade’s most central calendar event. I really feel that the LIWSF has a global remit to showcase the best in wines, spirits and other alcoholic drinks."

ADWUK will be showcasing a raft of new products on its stand G22, including new wines from Campo Viejo and a repackaged Montana range from New Zealand, as well as a brand new sparkling wine which will be kept under wraps until the event.

Sights and sounds

In its previous incarnation as the London Wine Trade Fair back in 1981, the show attracted 60 exhibitors.  Back then annual per capita wine consumption stood at 0.72 litres, representing 8.1% of the alcoholic sector and £3.4 billion in terms of value.

By the end of last year, wine consumption had leaped to 2.75 litres per capita, representing 24.6% of the market (a 204% increase) and a massive £10.6bn.  "We’re looking at having around 1,250 exhibitors from 36 different countries," says Murray.

All the usual suspects will be out in force but there will also be a first time appearance from Montenegro.  "It’s actually difficult to find new countries because the beauty of the wine fair is that we attract this broad base of exhibitors from the New and Old World. VinExpo, for example, is based in France so they’re going to have a predominance of French exhibitors. I’m not saying they don’t have exhibitors from the rest of the world but certainly if you look at the New World we’ve got a lot more balanced overview."

Many producers who exhibited in 1981, such as Stevens Garnier and Hallgarten, will be there again in May but there will also be new exhibitors hosting their own stand for the first time including Moët Hennessy UK, Hayman Barwell Jones, BW International and The Wine Group, one of California’s largest producers.

Even this far away from the show, 1,250 exhibitors have been confirmed and there are too many sights, sounds and tastes to preview, but a few highlights follow…

Southcorp, the largest Australian-ownedwine producer will be exhibiting its extensive Australian portfolio, including Penfolds, Lindemans, Seaview and Seppelt among many others. Also Peter Gago, Penfolds chief winemaker, will host exclusive seminars on the stand to celebrate the launch of a range of super-premium wines from Penfolds.

Meanwhile, on stand T40 Hatch Mansfield will be showing off two new Champagnes from Taittinger as well as a Louis Jadot Rosé 2004 under Stelvin screwcap, and new wines from Chilean producer, Viña Errazuriz.

Louis Latour Ltd will also have their own stand, M30, where they will be displaying their wines from Burgundy, as well as new releases from their portfolio of agency wines. 

Or come and visit Stratford’s on their newfangled double-decker stand F22, where all 17 of the company’s producers will be represented. Winemakers from Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and France will be on hand to talk about their new wines.

There’s something for everyone on stands R20 and R30 where Thierry’s will be presenting a selection of wines from some of the main regions in their portfolio, as well as some new projects.

Meanwhile HwCg will be blushing with pride on their big pink stand at S30.  Visit the Constellation Europe stand where they will be previewing the new Hardys Quayside range exclusively for the on-trade, as well as new launches from Banrock Station, Nobilo and Stowells.

If it’s fizz you’re after, Cordorníu will be using LIWSF to launch some major changes to their range of Cavas, following extensive brand revision work. New packaging and a new Cava will be available on stand Q60 to taste.

D&D Wines International will again be presenting wines from around the world and 13 of their suppliers will be there to pour for you on Stand M10.  They will also be showing off a dynamic new Australian portfolio including the Cumulus series, and a new on-trade portfolio.

Viognier will be the buzzword at the Veritaus stand this year and any fan of the vogue varietal cannot afford to miss them on Stand H18 where they will be pouring the first premium Chilean Viognier in the UK as well as a range of other Viogniers from around the world.

Do you know what a Quara is? See Vinoceros at their stand, number F10, to find out about their new brand from Argentina.  Visit the Brown-Forman Wines stand D60 where they will be exhibiting their full range from California (look out for the stylish new Fetzer packaging) and their Italian wines from Bolla.

Also, Bob Blue, winemaker for Bonterra, will be there previewing his new biodynamic wine. Meanwhile, Bulgarian producer Boyar Estates will be showcasing their new Dual Varietal range extension to the Blueridge brand, including Blueridge Merlot/Cabernet and Blueridge Chardonnay/Riesling.

Guy Anderson Wines will be exhibiting new products from Spain and France at stand C18, including a "kickass" Garnacha called El Burro, as well as their brand leaders Calvet Réserve and La Chasse du Pape.

Meanwhile Myliko will be showing off some Funky Llamas at stand D10! Lane & Tatham will be pouring new  wines from Italy, France and Argentina on stand C10, and Bottle Green will be showcasing various new varietals from their established and emerging international brands along with exciting new wines from Spain on their eye-catching new stand, C70.

Down the row at C50 Halewood International will be launching Osborne Domino de Maldica, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Spain.  Western Australian Palandri Wines will be on stand F20 showing off their new Pinnacle range, while Australian Wineries will be on stands E45/E40 but not just with wines from Australia.

They also have offerings from South Africa, Chile and Greece to name just a few. Look out for the Zebras, too.  Edward Cavendish & Sons Ltd will be presenting new additions to the D’Istinto stable from Southern Italy and premium wines from Australia.

They will also be showing a new range of South African wines and a selection of award winning brandies from KWV. 

High spirits

It’s not just all wine at the show, and Unitedbrands will be launching the XXX Siglo Treinta Tequila Silver, while Combier will be previewing a new range of absinthes, including Green Switzerland and New Orleans, at stand 194, where Combier president Franck Choisne will be present.

There will also be a new Russian vodka range launched; see the Spektor at stand F73.  Also at the show will be the first single malt whisky to be produced in Wales for over 100 years, Penderyn single malt.

Apart from new wines and spirits there will also be new business ventures to see.  Omnia Wines, created by the merger of Vinfruco and Stellenbosch Vineyards, is proving that the strength of a union can be much greater than the sum of its parts by bringing together a strong range of successful South African wines within a single portfolio.

Of course, if you want to get the best overview of a region then the generic country stand is the place to visit, whether it’s Chile, California, Côtes du Rhône or Cyprus, Austria, Australia, or Argentina. 

In fact, Familia Zuccardi will be showcasing an array of their latest wines on the Wines of Argentina stand.  Naturally, the momentous quarter-century milestone couldn’t go uncelebrated.

"We’re launching another feature, in association with SupremeCorq, that really revolves around the anniversary, called The 25th Anniversary Tasting," says Murray.  "It’s going to focus on wines from around the globe."

For logistical reasons Brintex were unable to include all wine-producing nations so they have focused on the top 10 countries of Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and the USA. Five prominent wine journalists (Andrew Jefford, Matthew Jukes, Chris Orr, Peter Richards and Joe Wadsack,) have been commissioned to identify producers who deliver consistent quality and provide typicity of their region.

"Ultimately what we’ll end up with is a tasting table for each country that’ll have five whites and five reds from producers who, in the opinion of our judging panel, deliver on a constant basis excellent quality. And because it’s our 25th anniversary we’ve suggested to them that they focus on wines that are under £25.

We’re celebrating quality in the industry," he continues. "Bringing together the great wines from each of these key countries at one tasting is a unique and not to be missed event. We are also delighted these top wine writers are giving us their support – I am sure the final selection will cause intrigue and much debate throughout this year’s fair."

The LIWSF 25th Anniversary tasting will be located at stand T70 at the East end of the South Hall throughout the 2005 Fair.  Apart from these seemingly endless tasting opportunities, there are the events and seminars to cram in as well.

"We’ve got the traditional industry briefings, which actually kick off on the Tuesday.  In association with Euromonitor, we’re focusing on the 24-hour drinking legislation and the smoking ban.  It’s going to be very debate-driven, talking about the effects these issues have on the industry in general," says Murray.

Following this, on Tuesday afternoon, ADWUK are hosting a briefing on the sparkling wine market – does a "bubbles category" exist, and if so how can the trade benefit? Come along to find out.

On Wednesday morning there will also be an on-trade seminar delivered by, among other on-trade figures, master sommelier and ADWUSA hospitality guru, Evan Goldstein. Wednesday is also the day for the business awards ceremony of a certain high profile drinks industry publication.

The winners of the drinks business awards 2005 will be unveiled at a strictly invitation only event, contact Angeline Bayly on +44 (0)20 7803 2444 for further details.  Later in the afternoon Brintex will be hosting another briefing session on closures, but this will not be the traditional closures debate.

"It’s about closures and packaging and how the two can marry together, as well as other packaging opportunities. It’s very merchandise and marketing driven," explains Murray.  On the Thursday the drinks business is hosting an event with Sopexa to reveal the findings of some specially commissioned consumer research.

Have you got the bottle to come along and find out how to target your consumers and give them what they really want?  In the afternoon EU-funded Eurocentral Mendoza will be focusing on New World producers and new opportunities within the market.

On-trade focus

The on-trade represented 22% of visitors in 2004, and the sector has become an increasingly important target audience for the show.  The on-trade zone, at the east end of ExCel at entrance S8 will feature a table-top tasting area for exhibitors showcasing their on-trade ranges, including Enotria Winecellars, Louis Latour, Brown Forman Wines International and Codorníu UK, acting as a "one stop shop" for the ontrade industry.

Did you experience the LIWSF tasting zone last year? "It’s about 25 tables, each one belonging to an exhibitor within the exhibition.  They can put in a maximum of 12 wines but they must be relevant to the on-trade," explains Murray.

"Ultimately we end up with a tasting environment that has about 250 wines in it that the on-trade know is relevant to their business."  With 1,250 exhibitors, for the on-trade to find out in the first place what is relevant to their business, and then to find the wines on those stands that they can taste, can take a long time, so Brintex has given them a short-cut.

"The on-trade are very time-conscious; they’re out of the restaurant but they’ve got to get back in a couple of hours for service.  So we insist that the tables aren’t manned so that they can taste in their own time without feeling pressurised," says Murray.

The packed on-trade seminar schedule, which will run throughout the three days, includes educational seminars and tutored tastings hosted by the WSET, Beringer Blass and Wines of Argentina, and you can learn a bit more about matching Roussillon wines with spicy food from the CIVR.

There’s the annual IWSC tasting and, for the first time, Decanter magazine will be organising a tasting of their own, featuring some of the unsigned talent from their World Wine Awards.

It’s hungry work

After a long morning’s sampling everyone’s thoughts turn to food and Brintex have got this base covered as well – new for 2005 is the Mentzendorff Seafood Restaurant.  "We’re physically building a restaurant on the floor of the exhibition," says Murray.

"The concept is for very simple but qualitydriven food and we’re working with Mentzendorff in terms of the wine list. It will be next to the on-trade area.  There’s a natural synergy between the seminars, tastings and the restaurant so it should be very striking."

There is also a wide selection of bars and restaurants on-site and nearby where you can recharge the batteries.  If you’ve only got a few minutes between stands then the usual selection of coffees, sandwiches, potatoes, pizzas, paninis, pasties and pies is available on the Boulevard, joined this year by the Tapa Tapa tapas bar and Chosen Noodle oriental cuisine.

However, if you don’t want to stand in a queue, the Instituto do Douro e do Porto are providing an "oasis in the desert" for frazzled fair-goers on stands A10-A20 and serving up mouthwatering delicacies, expertly matched to Douro wines and varying Port styles. But lunch is by invitation only, so contact Scott Burton or Jo Mason at Westbury Communications on 020 7751 9170 for further details.

All this tasting can be thirsty work, so those sick of wine will be relieved to know that there are Fox pubs and bars located throughout the ExCel venue where you can relax with a pint. And to the east of the venue the Yacht Club Bar and Fifth Deck Bar and Restaurant on the Sunborn Yacht Hotel offer a stylish alternative.

In fact there are a host of other bars and restaurants in the vicinity, visit www.excel– excelv2/dining_leisure/localdining.htmlto find out more. And so to bed…

Finally, when you’re exhausted by the show there are lots of reasonably priced places near the venue to lay your weary head. 

The Novotel London Excel (+44 (0) 20 7055 1942, is just 200 metres away; and the Hotel Ibis at Excel (+44 (0) 800 5873931, is about the same distance.

Alternatively, the Holiday Inn Express is a mere 400m stagger, with complementary breakfast and high-speed internet access (book on 44-20- 75404040).

The Crowne Plaza Hotel (+44 (0) 870 9909692) is just three minutes away; or for those  feeling energetic the Travel Inn (+44 (0) 870 238 3322) is a 10- minute walk.

Alternatively, if you’re staying for the week you might prefer a bit more freedom and a central location. Calico House luxury serviced apartments in the heart of the City, is offering all exhibitors a 10% saving; call 020 7489 2500 or you can e-mail in order to take advantage of the offer.

There’s more to see and do (and drink) at this year’s 25th anniversary show than ever before, so allow yourself plenty of time to fit it all in.

"We’ve really freshened it up for 2005 and hopefully what we’ve done should make it the best ever," says Murray.  Just don’t forget to pick up your commemorative wine glass on theway out."

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