The future of the London Wine Fair

Let’s seize this opportunity for radical change – and involve consumers too

I don’t envy Ross Carter, the man responsible at Brintex for the London Wine Fair, as it will be officially known in future.

On the one hand, he has to make sense of all the emotions that the event evokes, both negative and positive. On the other hand, he has to listen to a multitude of  suggestions about the best way forward from retailers, distributors, agents, producers, generic bodies and journalists, all with their own often quite different agendas. And, lest we forget, he has to make an acceptable return for Brintex.

The pressure is most certainly on. My feeling is that the trade will give Brintex greater support next year, and that exhibitor numbers will return to the levels of 2012. Brintex is saying all the right things and there is talk of reducing prices. There is a feeling of renewed energy about the event. And the return to Olympia, an air-conditioned Olympia at that, has met with widespread approval.

But expectations will be very high: it is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that for some companies and generics, the 2014 event represents the last chance saloon. And as an outsider I will be intrigued to see how these expectations are managed.

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The realities of dealing with climate change

Few deny that climate change is happening. The problem for producers is that it can be hard to predict what this will mean for their area.

Last summer I sat in the conservatory of an English wine producer on a gloriously sunny day. We were discussing his business plan and, in particular, the launch scheduled for the following year.

Suddenly the heavens opened and hailstones clattered on to the roof. In a remarkably short space of time the lawn looked as if it had been covered with a thick layer of icing sugar. The producer rang his vineyard manager, and it was immediately clear that the launch plans might need amending.

On the journey home I couldn’t help thinking that I needed to get out more. As someone who tends to feel that producers don’t spend enough time thinking about commercial questions, it is occasionally useful to be reminded that growing vines and making wine is not only a pretty time-consuming pursuit, but also one that is fraught with risk and subject to a fair degree of chance.

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