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LWF analysis: A 'different' proposition

Published:  18 May, 2023

Several exhibitors eschewed the traditional walk-up model at the London Wine Fair (LWF) this year, in a move to more creative ways of appealing to would-be customers, with interesting results.

Returning to its usual spot in mid-May following last year’s reschedule, Harpers also returned to the LWF over the usual three days from 15-17 May at London’s Kensington Olympia.

From the offset, it was apparent that businesses were trying, where possible, to take a different and often creative approach to interacting with visitors. After the prolonged headaches of the pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis, which is still very much being felt across sectors, many businesses chose to shake things up by taking advantage of the fair’s content-rich format, by appealing to audiences in often intriguing and commercially creative ways.

“Key to our goal was that our stand was not a pouring station,” Enotria’s head of marketing, Alex Notman-Watt, told Harpers.

“We wanted to offer something different and more engaging via our masterclass format, which we felt was useful to our customers to help sell the wines on their lists and bring our producers to life.

“It is refreshing to see that many of our contemporaries at other stands this year are also looking to find alternative ways of presenting wines, which is why London Wine Fair is a different proposition to other large trade fairs.”

Notman-Watt added that flexibility is the strength of LWF in particular, which offers an in-depth schedule of industry briefings, themed tastings and masterclasses – the latter being always particularly well-attended.

In Enotria’s case, this meant eschewing the traditional walk-up tasting, instead choosing to focus on key areas of interest which might appeal to buyers, often with just one or two labels per masterclass.

For example, Monday’s Partners in Wine session featured the wines of Jorge Roquette, Quinta do Crasto (Douro) and Jean-Michel Cazes, Lynch Bages (Bordeaux). Celebrated winemakers in their own regions, the pair have also collaborated on a joint project, Roquette & Cazes, presented at Monday’s session by Miguel Roquette, owner of Quinta do Crasto and Roquette & Cazes.

Enotria moderators, Richard Lewis, buyer for Portugal, and training manager Charlie Carter, also helped to tie the session together.

“This year is the third for Enotria offering a masterclass format,” Alex added. “However, it is the first time we’ve brought together multiple producers on each panel to share their knowledge, each paired to provoke interesting and thought-provoking conversations.

“We offered nine masterclasses in total, each moderated by members of our sales, marketing and buying teams. This really has been a team effort.”

Elsewhere, New Zealand Winegrowers returned to the fair with its first ‘significant presence’ in over 10 years. Choosing a one-day pop-up format, Chris Stroud, market manager for Europe, explained the rationale for “Eight themed tables, each showing a different side to New Zealand, with around eight or nine wines. The subregional Central Otago Pinot Noir was very popular; the Sauvignon Blancs as well. But people were interested in the unusual stuff too, from organic and natural wines, to smaller-planted varieties. The whole point was to show a different side of New Zealand.”

For NZWG, the pop-up was treated as an education piece, with the aim of reaching as many visitors as possible. Perhaps, it might also act as a springboard for producers to take a deeper interest in the event, further down the line.

“We’ve done a masterclass or two in the past,” Stroud added, “which reaches 40 people via maybe eight wines. Whereas, with this [format], we have 70 clients on show all day, available to everyone.”

Once again, LWF proved itself to be a versatile event, with strengths in its added extras. All across the floor, the trade could be seen getting involved in different aspects of those extras to great effect. Perhaps, that was why the fair felt lively this year. Even with those economic headaches still being felt outside its walls, the one-floor format made good use of its many areas, with the Centre Stage zone acting as a hub which regularly drew in the crowds. Overall, we walked away with the impression that the industry has much fuel in the tank, always with more to show.