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Here’s how a digital London Wine Fair will work

As we reported last month, May’s London Wine Fair will be a virtual event, but what does that mean for visitors and exhibitors? And how much will it cost? Here’s what to expect.

Can the London Wine Fair re-create the buzz and business of a physical event by going online? (Photo: Anthony Upton/London Wine Fair)

While the London Wine Fair, which will take place this year from 17-19 May, was due to run as a hybrid event, incorporating live and digital elements, because of the continued uncertainty around UK Government coronavirus restrictions for later on this year, on 21 January it was announced that the fair would stick to its existing timings, but become 100% web-based for 2021.

But how can the organisers re-create the UK’s only national wine trade fair through an online medium? db spoke to LWF head, Hannah Tovey, to find out.

In essence, this year’s virtual fair has two parts. One aspect deals with all the web-based information on the exhibitors, which can be hosted online for several months, and the other handles the 3-day event itself, from the meetings, tastings and seminars.

Firstly, to consider the former, Tovey is working once more with Bottlebooks, who will provide, as it has done in the past, a fully searchable database of exhibitors and their products.

For this year, however, this service will be extended to include what Tovey describes as being similar to “a social media page” for each stand holder, which can be managed by the exhibitor, while allowing the visitors to search through the wines on offer, as well as meet, via video, the people behind them.

Secondly, there is the online recreation of the usual physical three-day event. For this, Tovey is working with two further partners.

One of these, who will manage the tastings, is Borough Wines, who will transfer full bottles of wine into 50ml samples for visitors, who can request them via the London Wine Fair, although there will be the option for exhibitors to manage the supply of samples themselves to interested professionals.

The other partner is a company called Bella, who Tovey has enlisted to manage the virtual show, in terms of the digital experience, from the meeting rooms, corridors, and masterclasses.

Tovey told db that she chose Bella because its offer is “very intuitive; they have been working on virtual events for 10 years, and it’s really good.”

As for meeting with the stand holders, the visitors – who must be a member of the trade, and will be charged £25 to attend the virtual fair – can create their own profile, and list what they are interested in finding, as well as when they can attend the fair.

Tovey explained, “Let’s say you have three hours when you are available on the Tuesday afternoon [of the fair] and you are interested in Côtes du Rhône, then there is a match-making scheme to suitable exhibitors, and you can accept or decline the meeting. If you accept one, then a video meeting will pop up, with a maximum of four attendees at any one time.”

She adds, “Once you have signed up for a session, then your diary is automatically updated so you are not available during that time.”

Continuing, she said, “It’s designed to recreate the experience of walking around and meeting people at the show, and the masterclasses will be streamed through the same platform.”

In essence, Tovey said that there are two main elements to the virtual fair, which will be available to all visitors.

“Both things will happen concurrently, so we are offering the trade all the buzz and excitement of the fair, and then three months of visibility online, giving visitors the chance to follow up on their meetings, and ask for samples, as well as view the exhibitor profiles,” she said.

What about the cost for the stand holder?

“It could be as little as £1,000 to a maximum of £10,000,” said Tovey, commenting, “Everyone has the same profile page to start with, and then there are the add ons.”

Details for the digital London Wine Fair 2021: 17-19 May

Cost for visitors: £25

Cost for exhibitors: £1000-£10,000

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