For centuries London has been a byword for the centre of the world wine trade, and for many years now the London International Wine Fair has been seen as the best place for doing business in what is still one of the world's most lucrative markets despite the economic downturn, or just re-acquainting oneself with old friends and contacts.
This year will also see the Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as the Royal Jubilee take place in London. And before these historic events, between 22 and 24 May 2012 in the ExCeL in the heart of London's Docklands, LIWF the 32nd edition, once again sitting alongside the Distil spirits fair in the South Hall to facilitate moving between the two shows.
The International Wine Challenge Discovery Tasting
In line with this edition's theme of Discovery, The International Wine Challenge Discovery Tasting is set to become a major new feature at the event.
Taking place for the first time alongside the LIWF, this tasting is an essential platform for competition entrants seeking representation in the UK. The IWC competition results will again be announced at the LIWF, giving visitors the first opportunity to access medal winners that are as yet unavailable on the domestic market.
More than 1,000 wines will be available for tasting here, according to Brintex, fair's organiser.
James Murrey, LIWF event director, commented: "Discovery is a key theme for the 2012 show and this tasting provides the perfect opportunity for wineries to get onto the radar of some of the UK's most influential buyers for the first time. It will also provide a fast-track route to some great discoveries for the trade. By segmenting the tasting, we are able to offer a really targeted approach to appeal to the independents, multiples and on-trade buyers coming to the show. Not to mention the interest that this will generate amongst agents and importers."
Chris Ashton, IWC event director adds: "Holding this tasting at the LIWD will highlight to the trade the quality of the wines entered in the competition and give buyers the opportunity to pick up great wines previously unavailable to the UK market."
Wines at the tasting will be split into three sections: off-trade (high street and supermrkets), off-trade (independent merchants) and on-trade. They will also be grouped by country and by style, enabling buyers to taste efficiently. Wines from all the key wine regions will be featured, as well as up and coming wine-producing nations like Brazil, Georgia, Israel, India, Montenegro, Russia and South Korea.
Tesco takes a stand at the LIWF
The UK's largest supermarket chain, Tesco, will be leasing its own stand this year. This is the first time for a multiple retailer. Tesco is aware that due to time pressures, suppliers and producers often find it hard to secure meetings with multiple retailers and want to use LIWF as an opportunity to break down these barriers and ensure open discussions are available to everyone. As well as meeting with suppliers and tasting new products, the Tesco wine team is keen to encourage anyone who thinks they have a good idea to come and meet with them, describing it as a 'Dragons Den' style opportunity.
Other exhibitors and visitors are invited to come to its stand to meet the Tesco wine team to be able to discuss new products, product innovations or business opportunities. Tesco wine supremo Dan Jago commented: "The entire Tesco wine team will be present at this year's LIWF and we very much hope the opportunity will result in us hearing from people we might not normally have the opportunity to meet with. We are looking forward to tasting new wines, seeing some potential category innovations and hearing from visitors who would like some time for discussion with members of the wine team."
China will have a substantial presence in London
Like Tesco, China will be exhibiting for the first time at this year's fair. A contingent of six producers from Sichuan provice will be exhibiting in a pavilion hosted by the Sichuan World Trade Centre within Distil. Producers include: Wu Liang Ye Group, Langjiu Group, Louzhou Laojiao Co., Sichuan Tuo Pai SheDe Group, Sichuan Swellfun Co. and Sichuan Jian Nan Chun Group. Products will focus on premium spirits, many of which have never been exported to the UK.
All the producers are looking to secure distribution at the show, targeting the following sectors: high-end hotels, premium restaurants (specifically Chinese), luxury retailers and supermarkets. The Sichuan contingent will be accompanied by a delegation of officials, some of whom are agents in their own right and will also be at Distil and the LIWF in a buying capacity.
China is joined in Distil by a new group from Hungary, showcasing the nation's favourite spirit Pálinka, both underlining the year's 'Discovery' theme.
English wines step up presence at LIWF ahead of Jubilee and Olympics
Perhaps it comes as a surprise that English wines are so little represented in the major fair on their home soil, a case unthinkabla in say, France or Germany. Quality is improving apace and they will, however, be out in force at this year's LIWF in the run up to the Jubilee celebrations, Olympics and Paralympics. In all eight wineries will be represented.
Nyetimber (Stand G8) will have a display for the first time while Ridgeview (G20) will be back for its third year showing a portfolio of six wines including the Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs and Knightsbridge Blanc de Noirs. Litmus Wines (F11) will be showing its own Litmus Wines Element 20 range alongside Denbies portfolio within the Small Independents pavilion. Bibendum Wine (L30/L21) will be hosting five English wineries on its stand as part of its British Summer Time (BST) campaign: a'Becketts from Wiltshire, Furleigh Estate from Dorset, as well as Nyetimber, are all new to the portfolio. Also on the stand will be long-standing Bibendum agencies Chapel Down and Hush Heath Estate, both from Kent.
UKwine will host an Industry Briefing on Thursday, 24th May between 10h30 and 11h30. "What's the future for English wine?" will feature a panel of the most well-known and influential personalities in the English wine industry: Neil Philips (the Wine Tipster), Mike Roberts (Ridgeview Wines), Julia Stafford (The Wine Pantry) and Susanna Forbes (drinkbritain.com). Places can be booked with email@example.com. Charlie Holland, winemaker at Ridgeview will host a tasting of the 2009 vintage, incorporating food and wine matching, in the On-Trade Theatre (G70) on Tuesday, 22nd May between 16h30 and 17h30. Places can be booked via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2012 London International Wine Fair (LIWF) and Distil take place between 22nd and 24th May at ExCeL London, One Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1XL.
Opening times: 9.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Tuesday 22nd May and Wednesday 23rd May, 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Thursday 24th May.
For futher details and registration: www.londonwinefair.com and www.distil-london.com