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On-trade in high spirits at London Wine Fair preview event

The London Wine Fair’s Welcome Back Wednesday event, which took place this week, has been hailed a success, with members of the on-trade attending in their droves.

Some 641 visitors attended the virtual event on Wednesday, which was created to give the UK on-trade a chance to preview new wines, assess opening strategies and gear up for reopening indoors.

Among the on-trade venues in attendance were representatives from 67 Pall Mall; The Ivy; The Vineyard Hotel; Selfridges; and Edwardian Hotels.

Over 100 virtual stands and more than 1,300 wines were available to access by attendees from exhibitors including ABS Wine Agencies; Enotria & Coe; Fells; Graft Wine; Hallgarten; Hatch Mansfield; and Wines in India.

Enotria & Coe’s ‘Iconic Winemakers’ masterclass, which featured nine winemakers from some of the world’s leading wine estates, was booked out.

Some 90 members of the on-trade tasted along with the winemakers from sample packs, while a further 186 attendees tuned in just to listen to the session.

Key to the event was the theme of ‘report and support’, allowing visitors and exhibitors to reflect on the reopening of hospitality thus far and how operators looking to open on 17 May could benefit from these learnings.

Panellists at the ‘recovery of the on-trade’ seminar were optimistic. Charlie Mitchell of on-trade insights specialist CGA, predicted that consumers would be prioritising spend in hospitality over holidays this year, which bodes well for the sector.

He reported that in the first week of reopening from 12 April, 44% of British adults visited at least one venue, with sales pointing to a feeling of celebration: Champagne and sparkling wine sales were buoyant, and cocktail sales were up 75% compared to the same period in 2019.

“People are coming back and they are spending heavy, especially premium wines. Our fine wine list has taken a beating,” said publican Heath Ball.

Xavier Rousset MS of Black Book, Blandford Comptoir and Trade said he’d had “the best week in seven years” at his Greenwich Kitchen venue and is “hoping for a second wave of enthusiasm on 17 May”.

“We created this event from scratch in a little over a month, a few days after the government announced the proposed dates to re-open the hospitality sector, and the attendance far surpassed our expectations.

“The appetite for networking and tasting were undiminished, despite the virtual context, and we see this as a strong indicator that the main event next month will be extremely well attended,” said head of London Wine Fair, Hannah Tovey.

“We are confident that London Wine Fair will be the biggest digital drinks event in terms of exhibitors, attendees and content yet, and will be pivotal for the UK and international drinks industry.

“The positive feedback pouring in from all over the world hailing the events’ innovative the circumstances has been terrific,” Tovey added.

Visitor registration for the 40th London Wine Fair is now open, with registration for masterclasses, industry briefings going live on 5 May.

Tickets, which cost £25, will give access to live content between 17-19 May, as well as access to the virtual exhibitor stands, the sampling platform and recorded content for three months.

Members of the trade intending to request tasting samples for the masterclasses are encouraged to sign up by 6 May.

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