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London Wine Fair declared ‘bloody fantastic’ despite reduction in visitor numbers

The London Wine Fair was described as “bloody fantastic” by one exhibitor, despite a reduction in visitor numbers compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking to db on Friday, chairman of Hatch Mansfield, Patrick McGrath MW, said he was delighted with the quality of visitors to the fair this year, which was held last week at London’s Olympia exhibition centre.

“It was bloody fantastic; absolutely amazing,” he began, speaking about the fair. Continuing he said, “Our stand was rammed for all three days, and more importantly, the quality of the people was really good; we didn’t have any time wasters.”

He added, “There was a really good spread of buyers, including all the national retailers, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons, along with a good representation of national and regional wholesalers, and a good representation of independents too, and a few fine wine merchants.”

Meanwhile, the fair organisers, Brintex, released figures on Friday to show that the number of visitors was down by 33% compared to the last ‘live’ event in May 2019, attracting a total of 8,822 people to this year’s event, compared to 13,260 in 2019.

Patrick McGrath MW

Describing the result as “very positive”, head of the London Wine Fair, Hannah Tovey said that a fall in the number of visitors was expected compared to pre-pandemic levels, while expressing her pleasure in preliminary results to show an increase in seniority levels among those who did attend the event.

She said, “In 15 years as an event organiser, I have never experienced a show quite like this one. There have been many highs and lows, but crucially, the London Wine Fair team and its exhibitors have pulled off something very special; a show which has brought the industry back together after a period of incredible uncertainty.”

Among the “lows” was the need to find a new date for the fair this year, with the exhibition moving to June from its usual mid-May timing due to a clash with ProWein, which changed its dates from mid-March to May due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

On top of this, the London Wine Fair was also setback by visa and travel restrictions for international visitors and exhibitors; and then a tube strike hanging over into day one of the exhibition.

Commenting further on the show last week, McGrath said that “It was brilliantly organised, and everything worked like clockwork.”

He also picked out another advantage from being at the London Wine Fair for his company, which imports brands such as Errazuriz, Villa Maria, Louis Jadot and Taittinger into the UK.

“It is such a brilliant team-building exercise, and provides an amazing opportunity for your producers to spend time together; so not only was it a commercial success, it gave us a chance to team-build and spend time with our principles – all of whom were ecstatic,” he said, before commenting, “We had a group of very happy principles who flew around the world to come here, and they were all delighted.”

Indeed, he added, “It was so, so good, I can’t understand why our competitors aren’t there; I came away scratching my head.”

Nevertheless, McGrath did say that the fair would have been better had it been held in May – suggesting that the June timing probably led to a loss in visitor numbers of around 5-6% due to holidays – and looks forward to attending next year, when the London Wine Fair will return to its normal May dates, resuming with its usual Monday opening: it will run from 15-17 May 2023.

Finally, he expressed his belief in the importance of a major national, London-based wine fair for the UK.

“London is the centre of the international wine world and it’s really important that London has a fair – producers look to London to take a lead with wine and fine wine,” he said.

Concluding he said, “To be honest, the leaders of companies who were not there need to look themselves in the mirror; they have a responsibility to support British wine industry by attending the London Wine Fair, and they missed a massive sales opportunity.”

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