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LIWSF Introduction – Show Business

It’s fun, it’s informative, it’s exciting – but just how should you approach the vast LIWSF? Let the drinks business help you… By Patrick Schmitt.

With over 20,000 wines and spirits from 38 countries, there is no one way to approach the London International Wine and Spirits Fair. In fact, in that respect, it’s not unlike a Creme Egg. How do you “eat” yours? Do you start at the top before sucking out the insides? Break it in two, and deal with each half separately? Work your way round the outside first? Personally, I favour the putting-the-whole-thing-in-your-mouth method – when it comes to Creme Eggs, that is – and the more easily digestible nibbling-at-the-edges approach to wine fairs, of course carefully organised around a strict timetable…

And when it comes to preparing yourself, whatever your preferred tactic, let the drinks business be your guide. We’ve been through every product release, quizzed all major exhibitors and called up each organiser to find and condense the key news and must-see/-taste/-do events at the fair. Not only can you find this information in the magazine you’re holding, but attached to this is a lightweight Speedguide giving you all the LIWSF facts by country. And it won’t melt in your pocket.

Take note
So what’s new? There’s isn’t a country or agent exhibiting that doesn’t have something original or updated up its sleeve, but certain areas of the trade seem to be attracting particular attention. One is rosé.

So popular is the pink stuff, this year’s Top 100 Tasting has turned, chameleon like, to the colour, reflecting the increased demand for this wine style. A panel of experienced wine tasters has submitted a list of rosé wines from around the world all priced above £12.50 for “The Top 100 Rosé Tasting”.

Also worthy of note is the increased focus on spirits at the fair this time round. Last year the Spirits “Zone” became the Spirits “Quarter” to highlight its increased importance. This year, the sector has doubled in size and moved location to a more prominent area at the east end of the hall. The space will also be arranged around a central hub and has, as its organiser, international spirits ambassador Marc Charles. So expect a new face rushing around this part of the fair. No doubt you’ll be able to identify him by the walkie-talkie glued to one side of his face.

Then there’s the “Agents Arena”, which is  a space especially suitable for independent wine merchants. There’s also a host of new regions exhibiting for the first time. These include Canada, Romania, Croatia, Mexico, Macedonia and the US states of Oregon, Washington, North Carolina and New York. Alongside all this is over 30 seminars, tutored tastings and industry briefings in various locations. See pages 46-52 for detailed information on these.

Finally, new technology will be available at the fair, which allows you to download LIWSF wine lists straight to your computer, as well as add tasting notes straight to PDAs and mobile phones. If you haven’t already heard of it, the software is called TastingBuddy, and the people behind the programme will be loaning a limited number of handsets to LIWSF visitors. For example, the Top 100 Rosé Tasting will be catalogued on TastingBuddy, meaning you won’t have to write down the name, vintage, producer of at least 100 wines that are certainly worth tasting. And let’s face it, anything that saves on scribbling time at the fair is a vital development.

There’s nothing like wine tasting to make one hungry. All that tempting of the taste buds without allowing the body any sustenance leaves one craving something hefty well before the usual lunch hour. To avoid any embarrassing stomache rumblings there’s the usual range of coffee shops in ExCel’s shiny central foyer or canteen-like eateries along the waterfront. For something more indulgent, Mentzendorff are back with their Seafood Restaurant. This year it’s an even bigger operation, although booking is recommended.

You may spend the whole day tasting but a post-show drink is not only vital for cleaning the palate, it’s also a key opportunity to catch up with friends, colleagues and contacts in the industry. ExCel’s Fox pub is invaluable for both of these, and can be found dangerously close to the Docklands Light Railway platform. Why wait in the ticket queue?

Opening times
Tues 22 May 9.30am-6pm
Wed 23 May 9.30am-6pm
Thur 24 May 9.30am-5pm

Getting there
ExCeL can be reached using the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the exhibition centre has its own station, Custom House. Take the London Underground’s Jubilee Line to Canning Town and change onto the DLR for a two-stop run to Custom House.

ExCeL also has parking for more than 4,000 cars.

For those arriving from abroad, London City Aiport (offering a number of daily European flights) is located near to ExCeL.

More detailed travel information is located at the LIWSF website (

Where to stay
The official supplier for hotels and accommodation for the fair is Baxter Hoare, which offers rooms at hotels such as Novotel at ExCeL and the Crown Plaza London Docklands.

An interesting option from Baxter Hoare is the Sunborn Yacht Club, while more affordable options such as the Travel Lodge at London City Airport are also available. It is recommended that visitors book early, as demand for all accommodation near to ExCeL will be high.

Given the exhibition’s convenient transport links, however, the vast selection of hotels in London provides no shortage of alternatives. 

© db May 2007

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