Watch London go Wine Fair Crazy!
May 22nd, 2015 by
What an exciting winey week for London! First of all we were lucky enough to discover a quite staggering variety of natural, organic and biodynamic wines at The Artisan Wine Fair, RAW; and then the next day we were able to skip along to London’s 35th Wine Fair, immersing ourselves in all things wine, filtered neatly by region, importer and market position.
Those fortunate enough to go along to both events may have been (like me) impressed by quite how different the two fairs were in their individual philosophy and approach. RAW, standing firmly for a flourishing alternative wine culture seemed to be backed by a real energy of enthusiasm and curiosity; while the London Wine Fair, a confident representation of a long- established British wine scene, appeared to cater efficiently and practically for all our trade needs.
Venturing East on Monday I trooped along a rainy Brick Lane to RAW, picking up my ticketed paper wrist-band, kind of like heading in to a nightclub or private view. Friendly staff and a helpful pretty catalogue greeted me at the door – we’ll have no stuffiness here thank you very much, just very high ceilings filled with positive enthusiasm! Winemakers explained in varying levels of English what they hoped their creations expressed, how they chose to work with the land and manage their grapes. Orange wines, biodynamic wines, terrior wines, cult wines, bright and shiny wines, more cloudy wines – it was a varied lot – some, so unfamiliar to taste that I didn’t quite know what to do; others more reassuring, speaking a language I could more easily understand. There were many excellent discoveries – the Sangiovese of Podere Della Bruciata and the old vine Carignan – Grenache blends of Domaine Grand Guilhem in particular – though it was all of interest, as well as very helpful for the practice of open-minded-wine-tasting.
And so then the next day I headed West, to the LWF at Olympia – no wrist band, instead a more straight-talking scan of my personalised bar code that was hung round my neck, and not one but six professional tasting booklets. Bright promotional banners visible from all directions defined the different commercial units, a sign of the event’s hefty marketing budget. Here, things got serious – wines laid out by region, by country, by importer. The big guys, mainly downstairs, showcasing their portfolios to eager potential customers – a great opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the market and appreciate the dynamism of wine in London. The little guys had room too – upstairs in an animated Esoterica section specialist importers operated in a more relaxed, table-top environment; with the finer wines of the event gathered nearby in the more exclusive View Tastings.
So yes, a very different experience to be had at our two lovely fairs – just as well really, as it shows the different ways in which wine can be celebrated, expressed, understood, consumed… It also highlights that both philosophies can exist successfully together in the same city, during the same week, and interestingly, attract a lot of the same people – I bumped into many of the same friends and colleagues on both days! Which is no surprise given that both provided the chance to better understand our fantastically immense world of wine; to talk to the producers; to keep our curiosity and passion alive and to remain in tune with how the market is changing.
The existence of a thriving British wine trade, as shown in all of its traditional glory at the London Wine Fair, offers a foundation on which more alternative movements and ideas can be built. Maybe in future, though, we might see more of a convergence, with East and West coming together to meet somewhere in the middle, somewhere more central..! Here in London, where business and the market too often preside, RAW offers a fresh vibrancy and some much welcomed soul; yet without the heritage laid out by 35 years of the London Wine Fair, RAW may well have found it tricky to come into its successful being in the first place. I certainly felt that I benefited from both, it was just rather intruiging that I needed to travel to very different locations on different days to get the holistic London Wine Week experience that I was after.