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LWF: A look ahead at the UK’s wine fair

Published:  18 May, 2017

This year’s London Wine Fair comes at an interesting time for our industry.

The first of the post-Brexit era, next week’s event will unite a trade which is being forced to re-think its identity, relationships (and margins) as the UK re-defines its place in the international business community.

The political and economic tectonic plates shifting beneath us have also set the tone for change within the wine fair itself.

Having attended for the past 17 years as exhibitor and visitor, Hannah Tovey will attend this year’s fair as the heiress apparent to the role currently occupied by Ross Carter.

Tovey will officially start her tenure as event director in June, but the fair will be part of the handover as the Imbibe Live creator begins to outline her vision for its future.

Carter has put his own stamp on the fair’s evolution over the past few years.

He is credited with much of impetus behind bringing the fair back from the ExCel to the Olympia, as well as reinvigorating its domestic focus.

This was, and still should be the fair’s priority, he told Harpers, not least because of the fact that the UK is the world’s second largest importer of wine by volume after Germany, and second by value behind the United States (OIV report April 2016.)

“99.9% of wine is imported to the UK, which is quite unique. It’s enough to demand our own event,” Carter said.

A tight focus on the domestic market will return next week, as will segmentation into the UK’s various route to market.

Indies and the on-trade have been given more attention over the past few years, including dedicated areas like Wines Unearthed and Esoterica.

This segmentation works for the likes of premium supplier Hatch Mansfield which distributes to independents, the on-trade, travel retail, and larger accounts such as Majestic.

But despite various changes intended to make the fair more relevant to the UK market, some large agents have failed to sign up for this year’s fair, meaning that the aisles may be lacking in some of the bigger players.

However, with around 15,000 visitors registered so far, the fair will continue to maintain its relevance as the place to meet and do business, and particularly as the year’s biggest launchpad.

Broadland Wineries alone is set to introduce 57 new wines and others are similarly saving up their biggest or most significant launches for the year to introduce to buyers.

With new pastures and challenges ahead, now seems like a great moment for the trade to reinvigorate itself by presenting new ideas, creating business opportunities and fostering and consolidating ties: and this is the spirit under which the LWF returns to the Olympia next week.