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LWF’s Ross Carter: The exit interview

Published:  25 May, 2017

Three days of the London Wine Fair (LWF) is quickly drifting into a blur of meetings, conversations, debates and of course, tastings of some truly fabulous wines.

In order to take a step back and review, we spoke to event director Ross Carter about initial reactions to this year’s fair as a celebration of the best of the UK trade, as well as wider discussions around the future of the industry.

Before the fair, Harpers highlighted the importance of the fair as a platform to be able to regroup and channel our focus in a challenging political and economic climate.

Shifting political and economic factors and concerns about their impact were demonstrated in particular by Monday’s Brexit Debate, where around 170 people packed into a room with around 120 seats.

If the session itself didn’t show that the wine trade doesn’t exist in a vacuum, then there were the awful events of Monday night in Manchester, where children, parents and friends lost their lives in a venue similar in size and scope to that of the Olympia.

Speaking to Harpers this morning, Carter said that the various tensions orbiting the trade is why we must continue to value and continue the wine fair as a UK-focused event.

“It’s very complex at the minute with so many layers of political, social and economic…I don’t want to call them woes. But there is a lot of uncertainty and unease about.

“Because of that, and the instability in the market, it’s even more important come together annually, to show positivity and to network. It’s the only place you see the trade on mass…where you can stand there and say that is your business and your sector. If we can stay strong now, it bodes well when conditions improve,” he said.

This week’s fair was unique for Carter in that it was his last before he officially hands over his role to successor Hannah Tovey.

Tovey will officially become the wine fair’s new event director next month, but spent around six hours with Carter at the fair together visiting stalls and making introductions.

“At times Hannah was introducing me to people, which says a lot about how qualified she is to do the job,” Carter observed. 

While the official figures and satisfaction surveys won’t be released for a few weeks, Carter reports that initial feedback has been high.

This year’s fair had the most tasting features of any year so far, and were well attended.

And although a lot of conversations were around the challenges faced by the trade amid Brexit and currency issues, Carter said there was still a strong focus on business.

“The quality of the buyers was high and although people were talking a great deal about the challenges ahead, in the circumstances it was encouraging to see that clients were getting in front of the right people,” he said.

From spending three days at the fair, it was obvious that there was a strong focus on networking and developing relationships.

Although for Carter, the main focus is on doing business, he notes the difference between the LWF and Prowein, where the nitty gritty has to be “top of the agenda” due to the time and costs involved in attending.

Because of its identity of a domestic fair, LWF will always have a different atmosphere to the international shows, he said.

“As an exhibition, the LWF really is one of the most exciting in the country. A lot of people in the trade don’t have experience of other business exhibitions, but they are very different.

“We are all working in an industry and with a product that we love and that does create a different atmosphere. We are an industry of professional connoisseurs, which isn’t that common.

“We are very close to the product and I think that can blind us sometimes. It means perhaps that we don’t have the distance needed to be as efficient as we could be. But I think there are very few people in the trade who would want to change that. There is a romanticism around wine and the wine fair is about celebrating our shared love of our product.”

The London Wine Fair will return to the Olympia in 2018 under the directorship of Hannah Tovey.