So, London Wine Fair organisers have bowed to the inevitable and announced that the new UK-only show will return to Olympia in 2014. It was always a bit of a gamble shifting the old war horse out to London Docklands, even if it was to a purpose-built exhibition complex.
One, if not the, main criticism of ExCel was that it was too far out and the show would not get the all important sommeliers to attend as they could not get to the show, do it and get back between service. It certainly seemed to be the case.
When Brintex tried to resuscitate the spirits side by launching Distil, it withered pretty much for the same reason. Bartenders, mixologists weren’t heading out on the dear old DLR (Docklands Light Railway).
Personally, I don’t have particularly fond memories of the old show at Olympia. I recall it being crowded and uncomfortably warm. But it was central and people could pop in and out and get to some reasonable restaurants.
The last time I went to ExCel I was struck by how much LIWTF (London International Wine Trade Fair, as it was) had shrunk and that maybe ExCel was just too big now. I also found the queues on the Jubilee Line and DLR were horrendous. I think it was 4 trains before I managed to get on a tube heading out. Coming back on the DLR was pretty bad as well.
Since then the economy has remained stagnant, a raft of UK companies that would normally have been at the show, have gone bust. Taxes and duties have gone up so much that the UK wine sector just isn’t what it was. Flat as the proverbial pancake or crepe.
Although the UK remains an important strategic market as it is ‘open’, the fact is many companies hardly bother with it because it isn’t very profitable due to the stranglehold of the multiple retailers. Coupled with that, coming to London and staying in London is expensive. Hardly surprising that Brintex has thrown in the towel and gone back to basics.
The harsh reality is that ProWein has been getting bigger, Vinexpo remains BIG while LIWTF was shrinking. When I discussed the possibility of moving it back to London about two years ago, the show organiser said they had looked at it but there was nowhere large enough. I have to assume that it has shrunk further and Olympia is now big enough to accommodate the new, UK-only, scaled down show.
Let us hope the UK wine trade gets behind the new London Wine Fair. I have always enjoyed the massive networking opportunity and the ability to research a feature without having to go to the expense and time-consuming nature of having to go somewhere – that doesn’t mean I don’t want to visit wine-producing regions! But you don’t have to go every year to, say Chile or California.
It would be a terrible shame if we had to travel to Dusseldorf or Bordeaux to meet UK colleagues under one roof. So, Olympia it is next June.