Imagine yourself perusing the stands at Vinitaly, in eager anticipation of tasting this year’s offerings from Alto Adige, Tuscany or Puglia. Now, picture in your head arriving at said event only to find vast areas of agency stands offering everything but Italian wines, or stands of every wine-producing country, other than Italy. Not gonna happen right? So why then at England’s/U.K.’s premier wine consumer event do I face that exact scenario?
Over the last couple of years the LIWF has seen a rapid decline in occupancy. They don’t like to admit it and have tried to gloss over the fact by constricting the space, but it is so evident. I have been coming to this event every year for 20-odd years now, and an event that used to boast ‘come and try over 10,000 wines under one roof’ was this year proclaiming the success of ‘7,000 wines under one roof’. No wines of Germany or wines of Sherry this year, and industry stalwarts such as Berkmann and John Armit have long since pulled out. Hastily replaced by the likes of wines of India, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, and other Eastern European countries. All of which produce some very drinkable but realistically unpurchasable wines.
So, why no Wines of England Stand? There once was some representation. I remember sampling the joys of Chapel Down’s Pinot Noir at Olympia. I suspect, given the grumblings of a lot of the people with stands there, that it is the eye-watering costs of showing at ExCeL.
I believe it’s time to think about our wine event and bring it in to line with the likes of Vinitaly, Vinexpo and Prowein, where the focus is on our wine industry; which will obviously include our UK wholesalers and wine merchants but also our wine producers . I think it may be time to leave ExCeL, to find somewhere that can price the event that encourages more people to show, even if that means leaving London. Perhaps having it under huge marquees in or around some of our Vineyards. Most of us who have a serious interest in wine will be planning to or have already travelled to Vinitaly or Vinexpo, so I don’t see having to go south of the M25 as being much of an issue. Indeed, given the location of Gatwick and Heathrow and the major ports, I should think it would be less of a schlepp for many of the people who fly/ship in to exhibit.
One thing is for sure, LIWF can not continue as it is and remain competative against the other international wine events. It’s simply got no focus.