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LWF 2015: Updated Live Blog

Published:  18 May, 2015

As the annual London Wine Fair returns to London's Olympia, catches up with leading figures in the industry for a quick snapshot of the UK trade. Stay tuned as we keep you posted throughout the day on our live blog, as well as following us on Twitter on @HarpersWine using the #LWF2015 hashtag.

As the annual London Wine Fair returns to London's Olympia, catches up with leading figures in the industry for a quick snapshot of the UK wine and spirit trade. Stay tuned as we keep you posted throughout the day on our live blog, as well as following us on Twitter on @HarpersWine using the #LWF2015 hashtag.


12pm: Robin Copestick, Copestick Murray

It is the final day of the 35th annual London Wine Fair and the business buzz of the show carries on. The changing dynamics of the retail wine trade has not hampered this year's LWF and has in fact provided new opportunities for some producers and suppliers.

Robin Copestick of Copestick Murray has been pleased with the last three days: "It's been a great show. I have had excellent quality of meetings and there is a really good atmosphere. We've had all the major customers and new customers as well. Certainly we have created new business, which is exactly what the show is mean to do. The venue is much better than Excel. Last year was good, but this year is even better," be said.

For Copestick the show offers an opportunity to make further in roads into the on-trade and independents, but also is able to ensure that the business he does with "national off-trade remains strong. "The company went through a dramatic change in 2011 and it was then we made a decision to focus on the on-trade and independents," he added.

On Monday Copestick Murray had its iHeart Wines camper-van, which doubles as a wine bar, parked outside. The camper-van will be heading to festivals across the UK this summer, including the Grillstock BBQ and Music festivals.


1pm: Antoine Pirie, managing director, Les Vignobles Foncalieu

Antoine Pirie, took over as the managing director of Les Vignobles Foncalieu just six months ago and it has been an "intense" learning curve at the new company, but he is thrilled, he told today at the fair today.

He previously worked in Burgundy,so it has been a step change, he admitted but one he has embraced. "It is a different way of thinking, a new way of thinking that you have to adapt. I am quite passionate about this new way of thinking. There is a really energy in the South of France at the moment it is much more innovative. It is also really challenging so the wine growers in area cannot afford to be passive. It is an area that is really living at the moment," he said.

11am: Andrew Hawes, managing director, Metzendorff

Andrew Hawes of Metzendorff told at the end of the first day how pleased he was with the show. He felt that some of the business aspect and the buzz had vanished in recent years, but is convinced that this year show has affirmed his belief that the London Wine Fair is back.

"I could not be happier about this show," he said. "We are so pleased - the LWF has regained everything that we hoped that it would. There is diversity here, the wine trade is here, it is fun and we are doing business. There is a good blend of people and it feels good. It was a busy first day for us."

9am: Alex Down, wine sales & marketing, Amathus

Alex Down, the wine sales & marketing manager at Amathus drinks talked Amanthus's recent success after increasing the number of producers they wer importing by 15% and seeing year on year growth of roughly 20%.  Some of the success has been attributed to the sector as a whole, Down says, but the company's recently opened new store has also been helping to drive growth.

"We focus on the the on-trade, but for our shops we have had some great success. Location is everything and we have taken over a few Oddbins locations, which have worked really well for us. A lot of that comes down to our staff as we are all pretty young and open minded. We also have a strong offering of wine and spirits, but also offer a great selection of craft beer. Importing directly has really helped us as well," said Down.


Sophie Atherton, beer sommelier

Sophie Atherton is running a series of seminars at the Hopsack about beer and told her tips to get the beer list right:

"I advise people to steer clear of just having five or six very similar beers or lagers that do the same thing - they need to be more adventurous and savvy," she said. "Lager still dominates but there are a variety of styles to look at  - there is a new wave of British lagers. Also, you don't want a lager to dominate that bears no relation to the food you serve, it needs to go well with the menu. It's not about having one abv, or the same colour beers - there isn't an advantage to having one golden ale, one lager, one IPA, etc - you need to vary it and get porters and stouts, and to think about stout beyond just Guinness."

"By moving away from just having big brands, you do need to be savvy and have to start selling them on taste profiles."

3.30pm: Michael Saunder, chief executive, Bibendum PLB

Michael Saunders talked to about the learning curve he had been on during the last seven months and the new focus for Bibendum PLB: 

"It's been an amazing seven month to be frank, and there are two things you need to do.  I've learnt a lots over the last year, but you have to keep everything focussed on the customer - and make sure that the team are well motivated and have things under control, which we've done. It's bringing the business together in terms of getting the systems, the culture together, and we've done that. It's actually very complicated but it's been a very quick process." 

"Now we have two more things to do - the offices moves (we've rented offices next to Bibendum's in North London  and the two offices will fold into that) and the audits on the business side."

"My duty is to set the company right for the emerging future - you can't do anything on looking back."

2.00pm: Neil Anderson, marketing director, Kingsland Wine & Spirit

Anderson, marketing director at Kingsland Wine & Spirit told Harpers that industry was relatively strong, but that more changes are likely.

"The industry will look quite different in five years' time. From a consumer point-of-view, no one can predict what the trends will be, everyone says they can, but they can't. Sweeter profiles - everyone said that would here today, gone tomorrow, but it doesn't look like it. It will be interesting" to see how that affects the industry." 

"The other thing is that looking at the stats, around 80% of wine is sold under £6.99, the majority of that at around £4.99 and that is still a huge challenge to the industry. There is also evidence to show more consumers are buying more expensive wines and they are starting to engage, but nowhere near where everyone in the industry would like it to be, or some think it would be. If you walk around here today, not many producers appreciate where the majority is sold and at what price point.

"Everyone thinks that to sell more expensive wine, we need to talk about winemakers or complicated tasting notes or the vineyards - but I've put that in front of consumers over the last year and it is like wallpaper. We have to find other ways to engage with people to get them to buy more expensive wines. And there is such a huge opportunity to get it right"

12.00 pm: William Broadfoot, marketing director, the London Wine Fair

Will Broadfoot, marketing director of the London Wine Fair, is pleased with the buzz around this year's wine fair. He said: "This is my 19th show this year. There is already a good buzz. You can also tell there is already a serious amount of business being conducted."

Broadfoot is not too concerned about the registration numbers, although according to Ross Carter the show director, the pre-registration numbers are up although he didn't say by how much. It is after all, early days.  

The good will and success of last year's show is having a "snowball effect". He said: "There was such great feedback last year and people really felt that the show was back and its why we see such a strong start to this show."

For Broadfoot though he puts a big focus on how pleased the exhibitors are with the quality of visitors, not necessarily the quantity. "I look at it from exhibitor perspective if there are good people and enough of them, then they are pleased, which is a good judgement for the success of the show."

10:45am: State of the Nation seminar, Miles Beale, chief executive, WSTA

The 35th annual London Wine Fair 2015 kicked off this morning with Miles Beale the chief executive of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association discussing the highly competitive UK wine market. Beale said that trade which is "ultra competitive" at the moment is going through a period of consolidation sighting examples like the Bibendum and PLB merger and Majestic Wines acquisition of Naked Wines.

During such times it is critical that the trade remember how strong the market is and how far the UK market has come. According to the WSTA figures, the value of the UK industry has improved 8% over the last five years and  "The wine and spirits industry is worth nearly £45m per year," said Beale.

A big focus this year for the WSTA is going to calorie labelling and more information can be found at stand. Equally growing the WSTA membership will also be a big focus for the trade association and Beale emphasised the importance of English wine producers as well as more independent merchants joining so that their needs might be better represented.

9am: Ross Carter, London Wine Fair show director 

First thing this morning we caught up with London Wine Fair show director Ross Carter. He told "I honestly think this will stand out as one of the best shows in the Fair's 35 year history.  We have been championing this as the year of diversity and discovery and we will see the largest number of UK companies exhibit - 150 at the last count - many of which are niche importers in the Esoterica area; we will see exhibitors from over 40 different wine producing countries; and we will have over 100 seminar sessions covering industry briefings, masterclass tastings, Speaker's Corner and Hopsack, the largest number to date. 

"I think this really makes The Fair unrivalled for content not just in the UK but also on the international stage.  We are looking forward to welcoming our visitors when the doors open at 10am this morning and wish them all a profitable few days."

Stay tuned as we keep you posted throughout the day on our live blog, as well as following us on Twitter on @HarpersWine using the #LWF2015 hashtag.