It is my train journey home after my 3rd day at LIWF, and a happy feeling I have just been experiencing is suddenly doing a dramatic u-turn. Yep this is definately disapointment I am feeling and it is rapidly moving head on into anger. Why? you ask. Well let's start where all the best stories start. Right at the beginning.
Thursday is traditionally the day I vow ne'er to return to the depths of East London. I had made the same vow on the previous 4 LIWF's. Yet here I am. It's Tuesday and mid afternoon as I pass through the the badge holders gate. I am Immediately struck by the reduction in size, with both wines and spirits under the one roof. Next I am struck by the focus on what I unkindly and ultimately wrongly, (as I hope the conclusion of this blog will show) have to call the minor leagues of wine making. Slovinia, Turkey, Brazil, India, Virginia, and New York State among others.
Otherwise there was little there that I wouldn't have already seen in portfolio tastings over the year. More over if I was still a sommelier I don't think I could justify time off work to attend. The only reasons I can see to attend are for wholesalers and importers to source new products for their portfolios and for wine enthusiasts to try to broaden their horizons. So not being a wholesaler nor an importer, off I went to broaden my horizons.
This is where an unexpected sense of happiness began to rise in me. Resolved to avoiding the 'tried and tested' countries and wholesalers I headed off to Turkey and continued my voyage into the unknown, or atleast little known. I discovered some good stuff; some great stuff infact. A fantastic Cab/Shiraz Rose from Turkey aswell as a very good viognier. I will now be doing my best to read up on their indigenous varieties too. There was obviously some poor examples, but in general I was impressed. The same is to be said for the the other regions.
It was two days of enjoyable discovery. That leaves a third day. A day on which I was not tasting alone. I would be guiding a friend I had arranged to meet there later. But first I bumped into Joel from Great Western wines on my arrival.
Those of you who know me, I hope understand my need to talk wine is born from a puppydog enthusiasm. I am an idealist when it comes to wine, a good wine deserves to be represented and a bad wine does not. Good wine will sell, bad wine should not regardless of price. Geography, other than the effect of terroir, should hold no relevance to how we percieve the sale-ability of wine. So I see it as my duty to badger those with the power to make a difference into being broader minded. I like Joel. I like his portfolio. It has a risk or two to it, so I was hopeful. We started off at the wines of New York State. I was amazed at the awsomeness of some of the Rieslings and Cabernet Francs (Truly world class) and in fairness to Joel he did show a lot of interest in the wines as wine but it was tempered as the cold reality of market forces set in. Then to Washington State, a far more marketable prospect. There was an immediate and more positive response. Hands were shook and business cards were exchanged.
I don't know if either will end up on on his portfolio and I don't expect Joel to cut his throat just to please the likes of me. I just wish their was some kind of middle ground. Joel had to shoot off so I could not get him to the likes of Turkey. But this is where my depression started to kick in. What is the point of the LIWF if I have seen the portfolio tastings, and most of the rest of the exibition unviable, unmarketable? Indeed to some of my wine bretherin the unviable becomes risible. I know that I will now be seen as some sort of champion of the odd or contrary or quirky or some other adjective that will gloss over the short comings of the mind set of the industry I love. But if you are a sommelier or a wholesaler or even a member of the wine press how many words in your winelist, portfolio, column inches have you dedicated to such wines. That was turning my depression into anger.
So to all of those producers who spent a fortune in getting here. Sweated blood in your vineyards and battled British Airspace problems to seek representation, I can only apologise. I don't see a change in the attitude of of this market place. (unless parker 100 points them or there is another Oddbins type movement on the high street)