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.

How important is the Fair to the UK trade?

The position is complicated by the fact that some in the trade, in my view, would be very happy to see the end of the Fair; there is a feeling that it’s become unnecessary. They have moved on. They are assuredly offering advice to Ross about what direction to take (opinions which may be very valid ) but there is a fundamental lack of commitment on their part. Certainly if there was no Fair, they would not be lobbying to launch one.

In some cases this is genuinely about the cost of the Fair judged against its perceived benefits. But for others the cost of the Fair is probably a smokescreen. Exhibitors’ lack of interest is perhaps a direct result of the arrival of myriad other UK trade tastings and events which did not exist 10 years ago, but which now dilute the benefits of a showpiece event like London. ProWein, meanwhile, has grown in importance, and this has had a radical effect on how the trade views the Fair.

There are, of course, those at the other extreme for whom the Fair remains a centrepiece of the UK wine trade calendar. It is an event to which they have an emotional attachment, which implies that they don’t spend too much time attempting any rational analysis of the costs against the benefits (which is, after all, a difficult enough exercise however much time you give to it).

I should probably state at this point that I feel myself drawn to the latter group. The remainder of this post will offer views on how the Fair might be improved, but I do start from the basis that I think an annual Fair in London should remain an integral part of the calendar. And I am prepared to admit that my fond memories of Fairs past, both from a business and social point of view, predispose me to be positive.

Should we have a Fair in London?

In short my answer is assuredly “yes”. As long as we continue to have pretensions to be close to the centre of the wine world then it must make sense to hold an annual Fair. And, to put it another way, if we abandoned the Fair, it would send out a rather sad signal to the rest of the wine world. 

What kind of Fair should it be?

This is actually the more important question. If I was considering exhibiting next year my decision would not be based on whether the event was to be held at ExCeL or Olympia or indeed whether the stand costs were 10%-20% less. My decision would be based on what Brintex was intending to do, not simply to rejuvenate the event but to make it demonstrably important for me to be there.

For those who exhibited this year, this is less of an issue. They had the opportunity to join the exodus but decided to stay in. So they should need little persuading. But for those who pulled out it’s a different matter. For a start, they will have to find the money – money that they  either saved or spent on other things this year.

Peer pressure will clearly play a part. Companies generally don’t feel comfortable missing out on events that everybody else is attending.

However that is not likely to be enough for more than one year. For the longer term the Fair, in my view, needs a new vision. Here are four suggestions.

  1. We need to accept that London has lost the battle with ProWein to become, with Vinexpo, Europe’s leading international fair. One could spend time analysing why the battle was lost, but for the purposes of this piece let’s just accept the situation and move on. London should now become a Fair which is 100%  focused on highlighting the opportunities in the UK market and which helps producers, distributors and retailers to realise their potential.

  1. As part of this UK focus, the Fair should become a hub where buyer meets seller. That’s not really where we are currently. I was surprised that more major retailers did not follow Tesco’s initiative of 2012 and take stands of their own. Apparently some 116 suppliers presented to Tesco’s buying team this year.

That sounds pretty worthwhile to me, and exactly what the Fair needs. Why should all the stands be taken by sellers? But I’m not suggesting that only the majors should go this route. Why not groups of independents too? Let’s have a “hub” which reflects the market. And as part of this let’s encourage events like WineStars ( www.winestarsworld.co.uk ) which help producers breakthrough into this market.

  1. An area that has improved significantly is the focus of the seminars and debates. The emphasis until recently was on tastings; now the balance has shifted to discussions which provide an opportunity to learn more about the business and marketing of wine. This trend should be encouraged. I realise it’s difficult as an attendee to get the balance right, to find the time to buy or sell and also to stand back from the process and attend educational seminars. But the choice should be available.

  1. Most importantly I would like to see some consumer involvement. Many of the seminars are focused quite rightly on how we spend too much as a trade talking to ourselves, and yet the irony is that, at the time when we have the largest concentration of producers and opinion formers in one place, talking to ourselves represents the sum total of what we do.

My ideal Fair would run from Wednesday through until Saturday with Friday pm and Saturday focused 100% on consumers. This would certainly not suit all exhibitors so there would need to be the option of pulling out on the Friday. I’m not underestimating the logistical task or, indeed, the marketing task – the last thing we need is for consumers to be faced with a wall of stands. We would need “theatre” and a festival atmosphere, but surely it is too good an opportunity to miss.

Conclusion

As my introduction noted, for people like myself who have attended probably 25 London Wine Fairs it is difficult to be detached about the event, however rational we like to consider ourselves.

However there seems no doubt that the exodus this year and the move to Olympia have acted as a catalyst for the raison d’etre of the Fair to be given more serious thought than has been the case for some time.

What is crucial now is that Brintex and the UK trade take the opportunity to do more than simply paper over the cracks. The London Wine Fair could reinvent itself as something quite special; a celebration perhaps of all that’s positive about the UK market, an exciting hub which adds real value to buyers and sellers and  an opportunity for participants to stand back from the day-to-day to broaden their awareness of industry and consumer trends.

And combined with all this, it could become a much heralded annual event at which the astonishing diversity of the wines on offer in this market is presented to the people that really matter, in a manner that encaptures the passion and excitement that most of us feel about the product we sell.

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29 thoughts on “The future of the London Wine Fair

  1. Mike – rationally argued, despite the admitted emotional attachment! However, part of the problem in the past has been Brintex’s unwillingness to listen to the noises from the market and their customers, even when those were accompanied by large financial withdrawal (the year for example when Constellation pulled out – obviously a problem their end….). There is evidence that this is changing, and being a bit of an optimist, I reckon there is enough listening going on to move the fair forward under Ross’s management (surveys etc.). What is also needed though is creativity and innovation (with a small i) that Prowein and Vinexpo currently don’t do (the latter being particularly bad). My view is that if Brintex can listen more to their stakeholders, and bring in some measure of doing things differently from the competition, we have a chance of having one of the most interesting fairs in the world. Textbook stuff really. Who needs size, in that context?! Size is vanity for town councils in France and Germany!
    I have a sneaking feeling that Brintex have been ‘milking’ the brand whilst the competition have proved themselves more worthy, and that now with modest investment and some thought they can bring it round to be the best in the world. If they don’t, I’m pretty confident someone else will. And if they don’t, I’ll do it myself. Financial backing gratefully received!

    • I agree Matt that its not about size and its more about thinking laterally about creating stand out and relevance. We need the equivalent of the opening ceremony of the Olympics…quirky, quintessentially British , self confident but not arrogant and with a sense of humour ! Not to everyone’s taste perhaps but full of personality. Look around the trade and it shouldn’t be too difficult. Someone asked the other day why the onus should be on Brintex to do all the creative thinking. A good point I thought.

      • Perhaps because they own it and make profit from it like any other brand owner?! I’m happy to contribute my creative thinking, I’m sure others would too, but surely there needs to be some personal benefit for doing so – free space/brand profile etc? If I do the same work for a brand-owner or a producer, I charge money for it. I’m not suggesting I would necessarily charge Brintex cash, or even that they care that much what I think or could contribute, but the point is surely that they would potentially benefit financially from my creative input. And also, don’t they have a high-powered advisory board made up of buyers, visitors and exhibitors (one ex-member confirmed to me that they have barely listened to this though in the past)? Now, if the Fair were owned by a consortium of interested parties (retailers/brand owners/generic bodies etc.) then one could perhaps afford to be less mercenary and more objective….! Maybe Brintex should sell up and leave the Fair in the hands of those who care about it more than just as a way of adding profit to the company coffers…..

      • The comment that was made to me was more about exhibitors lacking creativity in terms of how they took advantage of the Fair rather than Brintex’s lack of creativity per se. However you do raise an interesting point. I was actually the first Chairman of the advisory board. Id like to think we were listened to and not just there to help promote it. The intention at that stage was to become a leading International Fair and move to Excel. As a board we were in favour of both so I accept that its difficult to tell how much influence we had.

        As I noted in my post I think next year is key…probably for Brintex as well as the Trade. I hope expectations are met, certainly the event will be in the spotlight even more than is normally the case. If Brintex later pulled out it would be interesting to see if a trade consortium, as you note, could agree on how the event should be taken forward. Certainly there would be disagreement over whether the consumer should be involved.

  2. a trade fair is a business investment like any other and should therefore be subject to the same criteria that are applied to any investment – what return do you get?
    to make that judgement you first need to know what the parameters / criteria are that would show that the investment did deliver that return and this is where i begin to struggle. i am currently unable to to define what the purpose of the show is. until that is clear how do you measure success?
    in a wine producing country, shows are all about the producers, usually with a heavy bias to the producers of the host country. the UK is a wine consuming country and any show should therefore be about the consumers in this country. Mike makes the point well and i would add one further step – wine and food are clearly linked in the consumers minds and adding a food dimension to any show would attract a larger audience. how you do that is a question for another day. until the the purpose is clearly defined, i will remain sceptical…..

    • I agree Peter that it should be judged as a business investment because that is clearly what it is.However its not easy to note the costs on one side of the page and benefits on the other because many of the benefits are unquantifiable ( the Fair of course is hardly alone in that regard ).
      At Western Wines, for example, we invested heavily in a party on the middle night and owned that slot. Id like to think that the benefits outweighed the costs but Ive no idea how they could be quantified. .
      I suppose the key point Im making in my piece is that times have changed and the Fair needs to change with them. It used to be a key mechanic in trade marketing ( for example at Southcorp a major benefit was our ability to bring Thresher and Oddbins store staff to the stand). Now those benefits are less clear: there are more trade marketing options and the structure of the trade has changed. Hence my suggestion about it becoming more consumer facing. Here I definitely agree about links with food; that makes perfect sense

  3. Good piece and discussion around a subject that lends itself to foggy rather than clear thinking.

    The fog surrounds this event precisely because it’s essential purpose has been lost. But it used to have one, and it used to be regarded as a valuable if not essential event to participate in as both exhibitor and visitor. So perhaps the first question should be- what has changed to take it from pre-eminent event to also ran? And, taking into account the significantly changed commercial wine world today, and the success of rival events in the UK and Europe, what needs do exhibitors and visitors have that a London show could profitably provide- both for itself and attendees?

    In trying to answer the question we are faced with two key issues.

    First, everyone involved commercially in some way with wine is lumped together when in reality there are legions of different interests, needs and perspectives. One size does not fit all.

    Second, despite some efforts to the contrary, the event remains at core about the liquid in the bottle, a gallery of sniffing, spitting and price.

    While the liquid remains core to product identity, a major event provides an opportunity to go beyond this. The holy grail for everyone involved commercially in wine is to move from a product seen as a low value agricultural commodity to a high value purchase that not only tastes good but delivers strong, positive emotional benefits. And I use the word value here to mean both financial cost and emotional benefit.

    Wine should be selling dreams but is selling price. Consumers expect every Pinot Grigio, Rioja and Chilean Chardonnay to taste the same and decent. And by and large they do. So we must add value though the stories and emotions. As perfumes do. A London wine trade event could do this if it were specifically focused on this single objective. Because we have to make a mental break with the past I propose that the 2014 event FORBIDS wine tasting. Instead exhibitors must convince their trade visitors of the added value reasons to stock their products. They should focus on why the clients consumers will be attracted to the product for reasons other than the taste, on the basis that we can take it for granted it will taste ‘fit for purpose’.

    As for consumers, I do not think we should muddle them in with a trade event that has lost its way. We can hardly hope to inspire them if we cant inspire ourselves. I attended a Wine Intelligence session at the LWF this year where Tyler Balilet from the USA talked about Wine Riot, his ‘do it differently’ wine event now in 6 cities, each catering for 3,000 young consumers. His whole approach is to start with where the consumers are at and make the experience fun. As he said “Nobody ever went into a shop and asked or a wine with violets and earthiness”. A chink of light through the fog.

    • I completely agree with your two key issues Jerry. And the implication of your solution is that the Fair should at its core be attempting to push the industry in the right direction as opposed to reflecting the status quo. The question is as to whether potential exhibitors and visitors could agree on that direction….the reaction to your ban on all tasting could I’m sure be wonderfully captured in the modern equivalent of one of those Bateman cartoons! Certainly, however, the Fair should be part of the process whereby the move to a more holistic approach to wine branding is accelerated.
      As for consumers, I do accept that bolting on a consumer event would not be easy but the difficulties are not insurmountable and it just seems to me that we have the perfect opportunity to use all that energy, passion and personality that is already in place to communicate with the constituency that really matters.
      I’ve also seen the Wine Riot presentation and very much agree with you that this format would work but I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. The key would be to change the mind set of the trade towards the Fair which comes back to the first point you make about the Fair’s essential purpose.

      • I’m pleased to see that the debate around the future of the Wine Fair is still fresh in people’s minds, especially as this is a particularly fallow time for us in the press.

        I think the best way to answer some of these points is to respond to each of Mike’s four key areas for change and then perhaps look at some of the comments.

        1. We have quite openly accepted and commented on our position regards both Prowein and Vinexpo. Not so much a lost battle, that’s a different battlefield altogether. The UK is the world’s leading volume import market, and soon to be the leading value import market, therefore deserves a national wine event. A domestic focus will be priority number one; content, buyer incentives, category insight and a dedication to value growth in the UK wine market are all top of our agenda.

        2. The Fair should be a hub where buyer meets seller, otherwise it falls short of being a trade show. Over the years many millions of pounds worth of business has been done at the Fair, all a direct result of introductions, meetings and negotiations made over the three days. This should increase in the years to come and the investment in buyer incentives, over four times that of 2013, will have a big impact in getting the business and experience mix right.

        Buyers should have a role in participating at the Fair. This year Tesco had a “Dragons’ Den” setup in a room away from the show floor. I would encourage other multiples to do the same. For the independent sector and on trade it’s a more complicated endeavour. They are often keen to be involved in content like Winestars, but they are less inclined to sit at a stand for a day or more and have producers come to them. Having spent time in buying and having spoken to others, the preference is to be able to plan ahead, know what you want, to approach producers on your terms and not to feel obliged.

        On the other hand, content like Winestars is the perfect compromise to this rather one-sided approach to the buying model. The sense of theatre appeals to both participants and the audience, it creates atmosphere and promotes trade.

        3. Seminars and debates – I’m glad you think they have improved. A lot of time and effort went into developing the content this year and the addition of the Hub proved very popular. We have said since the beginning of the year that one of the key areas for development is content. Tastings should be more trendsetting, seminars should be more compelling and polemic and Speakers’ Corner content should be informal and exciting. Our Pop Up tasting features were full to bursting every day.

        In 2014 we will be introducing a workshops area. This new content will be for the independent and on trade sectors and will look at ways to increase profits. If we want to engage with these sectors more effectively we need to offer them content that better reflects their daily needs, after all, there is little they can do with duty escalators and oxygen impervious flexi containers.

        4. Consumer involvement is the subject that seems to divide opinion the most. Peter is quite right when he says this is an import market and we should be doing more to engage with the consumer. The trade has been very self-critical about its relationship with the consumer and many within the trade have looked to the Wine Fair to provide a neutral yet engaging platform to allow ‘us’ to communicate with ‘them’. That said, we have asked the question about allowing consumers into the Fair in our post show research (both exhibitor and visitor) and the overwhelming response was negative, to the point where many even said they would no longer participate if we did.

        That’s not to say we are not able to offer a platform for consumer engagement, quite the opposite, but the answer does not lie in opening up the Fair, at least not in the short term. We are looking at a new project for consumer engagement and we hope to be able to tell you more soon.

        I agree that there is a huge opportunity for change in 2014 and the Fair will be judged on its ability to deliver point of difference. I am not going to go into each detail of our plans here, as they have already been covered in the press and we will shortly be launching our 2014 website, which will cover the cultural change in much greater detail. I should mention that all of the points raised in this blog are being covered and whilst I don’t expect to please everyone, I do expect to deliver change.

        We have been asked to explain what the Wine Fair will be. The Wine Fair will be the trade event for the world’s leading import market. It will have a festival atmosphere, it will be an experience and it will be a more cost effective. To those who claim we are trying to be a ‘Jack of all trades’, I would say we are the national wine event, it is our role to bring the trade together. You only need to look to the continent to find events many times bigger that not only try to appeal to every sub sector of the trade, they also try to appeal to buyers, with completely different agendas and practices, from over 100 countries.

        We have been accused of not caring. If this satatement were wrong, and we simply ‘cared’ about the Fair we would still fall short of what is required of us. I am very passionate about the Fair, as are my collagues, past and present.

        We have been accused of going after big profit. This is the wine business, not the tech industry; I think that opinion is misguided.

        We have been accused of not listening to our advisory board. A wine clinic, which will become the 2014 workshops, stop and stare features, that became our curiosities (cooper, wine press etc) and the MyWineFair volunteer system, were all suggestions from our advisory board and we are very thankful for them.

        Please don’t think I am tiring of the criticism, it goes with the territory. Of all of the comments in this blog, and I agree with most, there is one in particular that I would challenge. When Mike says there are many who would happily see the Fair end, I believe there are many more who would prefer it didn’t, the proof is here, in this debate, in the many hundreds or thousands of column inches that have been dedicated to the subject in recent months, in the conversations that I have had with all of you.

        We turned on our online rebooking system last Friday, for the time being this has only been made available to 2013 exhibitors. In 19 minutes all of the key importers, brand owners and producers rebooked. Even in 2008 at the Fair’s height, this process took four months. This is not simply because they were always going to come back, some of them told me in no uncertain terms that it was debateable weather they would return in 2014. The two reasons they have all rebooked are because they had an excellent 2013 event and because they believe in the changes we have proposed. So too do the majority of companies I have spoken to who did not take part this year.

        We look forward to speaking to all of those companies very soon.

      • Thanks for your comprehensive response Ross and I’m delighted that bookings for 2014 have got off to such a positive start. I wish the Fair well as I noted and wish you well in your attempts to please everybody! As you say, the particular difficulty is in trying to please those like Robert and myself who believe that adding a consumer element is important. I quite understand that if your customer base is overwhelmingly against such a move you are not in a position to go ahead. However what I would really like to know is whether people are against it on practical grounds (eg stand lay out ) or more conceptual grounds. If its the former then I can better understand it although getting enough people ( and, crucially, the right people) to commit to a separate consumer event when the diary is already crowded and budgets are tight will not be easy.
        I look forward to hearing your plans at the appropriate time.

      • If you go to Hong Kong, you find the consumer day of the annual TDC fair works brilliantly. The same applies to the evening consumer events recently introduced by various generics in the UK. The logical answer for London would be to have a consumer event over the weekend prior to the trade fair. However, given the wine trade’s fear/dislike/lack of understanding of consumers, I have little hope of this ever happening at Olympia. Far better to have a dull event peopled by indies and sommeliers, many of whom will buy little or no wine, than an event at which the people who make and sell the stuff would actually stand face to face with the people who actually purchase it for their own consumption.

  4. I’m reading this and some things are standing out at me and some not. Firstly, thank you to Mike and to Ross for their positive comments re Winestars World. Our goal is to help wineries sell, help buyers find an easier, quicker and more exciting way to buy wine and for us all to have fun doing it. Thank you to Ross and all those in the trade for supporting Winestars. That aside, what strikes me as odd here, is that there are comments discussing charging Brintex fees to generate creative thoughts, innovation and new ways of doing things for an outdated (well what was) event that people weren’t making a return on investment on. I’ve with Peter D on this. Having a small agency where you sell to grocery and your margins are minimal to end up spending near on 30K is a huge whack… and you better hope you get enough buyers visiting you to give you orders that help you justify the cost. Small or large, most companies don’t and so they just offset it as something they have to do. Now, going back to creative thinking… I know this is an industry unlike others where margins are tight, people are secretive about their learning and ideas for innovation, but come on… look at other other industries that constantly have events whereby they share learnings and experiences. Take Le Web for example… their are many people who present at this event and they are competitors… That’s what makes Tech so exciting and that’s why Rowan Gormley of Naked Wines is so excited at being in California and now part of that set. It’s sexy, it’s exciting to share ideas, to adapt ideas, to evolve old processes and see them streamlined into new and engaging ones. We should be getting the best of marketing and social media into a room with Ross, brainstorming new ways of doing things, looking at how other interesting industries produce their events… If the Spirits guys have lots of money, which they do, then incorporate something sexy into the Wine Fair that adds some colour and mixology. I’m with Mike on bringing in consumers. It’s seems lazy and mad that importers/agents wouldn’t want to give their producers and themselves access to consumers at a time when all the wineries are in London in one place. Look at the Tesco Wine Fairs. They’re not the most innovative fairs in the world, but the consumers love them, the buyers love seeing the consumers enjoying their wines and I can’t imagine the grocers wouldn’t be open to a 3-4 hour evening tasting (I nearly said party ;0) ). Let’s get together to help Ross and the fair, to bring innovation, to share our knowledge and creativity and let’s even bring some of our friends from outside wine, whether it be cosmetics, tech, FMCG etc. to encourage some meaningful discussions and thoughts.

    • Thanks Catherine. I am not sure who is on the Wine Fair advisory Board currently but what your comments suggest to me is that Brintex should set up a group which would be 100% focussed on creating a consumer event as opposed to extending he remit of the current Board. I’m still very keen on extending the LWF ..it makes so much sense in every way . However if Brintex cant get support for it from enough exhibitors the only option is a stand alone event .Either way they should involve people like yourself as well as people from outside the industry. It could be something very special.

      • Mike – I think we need less “Politicians” involved in these “boards” and we need more creative people involved – even people like Stranger and Stranger/Barlow Doherty – I can potentially get the fantastic guy who owns Cake Agency in London involved… he has just done some very cool work with Glastonbury and Rihanna etc – we need better content and activity……. people need to stop doing it the way it always was because they fear change….

  5. As a naive amateur I would also think that there is an opportunity for a consumer event linked to the fair. However, having poured wine to thousands of pissed punters at events in the passed, I know that producers (and winemakers in particular) tend not to be too keen on standing behind a stand for hours playing the human tot measure. The reality is that these are the people who are often buying the producers wines at the end of the day, even if they are unlikely to recall the brand from among the sea of labels on show. So producers need to find a way to engage without going the Basil Fawlty route – “No riffraff!” and further separate themselves from the market.
    In a wine market like the UK, and especially London, perhaps there is an opportunity to align the objectives of the producers/distributors and the customer facing sellers.
    If a producer has a strong relationship with a gastro-pub chain, or group of restaurants or selection of retailers, why not get them involved in the consumer event? Have them pouring, talking and selling the story and relating it to their own brand/food style etc.
    The producers would be gaining insight into how their brand is ultimately presented to consumers. They will have the opportunity to inform and educate on their products where it is appropriate. The retailers/restaurants will improve their connection with the brands and the consumers will have a much clearer connection with where they can actually get their hands on the wines. A bit of collaboration would surely leave all the people involved with a clearer picture of positioning within the market and what opportunities exist.
    This approach is naturally going to favour the bigger brands with a larger footprint, but proactive distributors and those with strong client relations will be able to motivate this involvement and will be able to create incentives for this collaboration.
    Just a thought. Shoot me down…

      • Chris you make some very good points – especially the ones about involving on-trade customers – but I’d simply remind the wine trade recalcitrants of the following:

        1) Back in the 1990s, one of the reasons why Australia made such headway in the UK stemmed from pouring for consumers while the Europeans stood on the sidelines and mocked.

        2) Suppliers to Tesco and Direct Wines/Laithwaites seem to be perfectly willing to give up their weekends to pour at those companies’ events. I don’t know many people who’d rather be at the Tesco Wine Club than with their families, but they understand the need to keep their (trade) customer satisfied.

        3) Anyone who attended the RAW fair in London will have seen how enthusiastic consumers can be – and how focused they generally are on the wines rather than getting pissed

        4) People pouring at Three Wine Men and Wine-Gang events seem to find

        5) Any producers with any intelligence and interest in their bands and their business can learn volumes from consumer comments. At a recent New Zealand trade tasting, the professionals mostly refused even to taste the sparkling Sauvignon; the consumers leaped on it with glee…

        But we’re in the wine trade. We hate consumers, do not care what they think (unless they’re “enthusiasts” who speak our language) and in any case, we’re not in this business to make money. So why bother with anything we don’t have to?

      • Thanks Robert. I’m quite surprised that the feedback from the trade is so against extending the LWF into a consumer event, hence my questions to Ross as to why. As you say plenty of suppliers turn out at the Tesco and Laithwaites Fairs and having been behind a stand at the last two of the latter I can testify to their usefulness and to the level of interest of consumers. The beauty of the consumers I met is that they are exactly the people we want to enthuse. Most are not the most knowledgeable but they have high levels of enthusiasm and didn’t appear phased by paying well over £5 per bottle. So given the other suppliers at these events will have had a similar experience to myself and given the supplier base attending these tastings must represent a sizable chunk of LWF revenue, I’m surprised the ‘anti’ vote is so definitive.

      • Frankly they should just do the consumer event with the people who agree to it and they should write directly to the producers and their marketing people – I bet you they would say yes considering how far they are flying to attend. And the people who don’t want to attend, well fine. It will gain momentum and with enough of the right PR there can be a very successful and exciting consumer event and the right people will make it happen and will work with Ross to make it happen

      • It certainly would be interesting to see how the views of producers and distributors might differ. In the end though we can’t expect Brintex to go ahead if their ‘customer base’ is vehemently against it. As I’ve noted already, however, I would really like to understand why people are so opposed…and why they would prefer a stand alone event

      • Robert – going back to your initial thought – I don’t agree the tasting should be on the weekend – it should be on 1 of the evenings of the wine fair

      • Catherine, surely it would have to be more than one evening, think of all the effort required to add a consumer element to it. I think it needs to be a weekend and there are arguments for the weekend being either before or after the trade event. And to take your point above, I’ve no reason to be critical of the current Board, and there may indeed be members of it with experience of consumer events, but you would certainly need a sub committee of people like yourself to ensure the right focus was being given to it.

      • Hi Mike – with regard to the consumer tasting… My reasons for saying no to the weekend is because we encountered issues with Winestars this year where we had 50 Finalists for the Buyers’ tasting. About 30% of them couldn’t attend the tasting on the Friday (the finals were on the Wed at the LIWF). The reason for this was a) they were not allowed to be in London for an extra 4 days before the LIWF – their companies couldn’t justify the extra costs in travel and accommodation etc. So to ask producers for LIWF 2014 to come out the Friday before, I believe that Brintex will encounter the same issue. Also please remember how huge an operation LIWF is in organising, building and managing. You really can’t expect Brintex to put on a 3 evening event as well as the 3 day event… Surely we should be walking before running… I would suggest a nicely organised (with the help of others) 1 evening event from 6-10pm – Wines of Spain do this extremely well after their annual tasting. It doesn’t need to be bells and whistles in year 1 – let’s just start with something where the consumer gets to meet the real deal behind the wine and where the producers feel they can touch their consumer so to speak as some of these producers don’t meet any buyers during LIWF. It’s all about adding value bit by bit but let’s just start with something small and well organised and then grow organically from there. In my humble opinion.. 🙂

      • Thanks Catherine. Well I definitely agree that we should try walking before we attempt to run , I guess I’m just naturally impatient. Maybe we should start with one evening event to prove it can really work. The issue is, of course, that appears unlikely to happen….coming back to the research Brintex undertook last year. I’m therefore intrigued by Ross’ comment that they have a Plan B in terms of engaging the consumer

    • You raise some interesting points here Chris. I like the idea of retailers ( on as well as off ) getting involved in a consumer event….we shall need food for a start ! And it would help create the theatre necessary. Its also important to get a balance of the big brands with the rest….both sectors complement each other and that needs reflecting at the event. This in turn implies that the generics will need to get involved to help draw together the smaller producers.

    • Thanks Andrea and I’ve read your piece. I agree with you that there needs to be a clear vision. The problem is that a Fair by its very nature needs to appeal to a broad audience with different interests but I feel Brintex are now ‘on the case’. Clearly, however, you have some thoughts on the way forward; I hope you’ve shared them with Brintex

      • Hi Paul,
        thanks for reading my piece.. i did not share anything with Brintex, personally I think that they should ask if they are interested.

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