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15/05/2009

Tony Keys - Live from London - Day 2

The organisers of The London International Wine Fair are calming down a little, announcing that they have now had over 11,000 visitors at the end of day two, around 5% down on last year. Exhibitors are skeptical of the figures, not exactly a new conflict.

Gemtree, Chapel Hill, Irvine, Tscharke and Nepenthe Albarino (or Albarinot) are on show …whatever the variety people are rating them as good and interesting wines — a positive outlook for the makers and the industry as a whole.

David Cox has been appointed the new director at Wines of New Zealand. He’s the twin brother of Michael Cox who heads up Wines of Chile in the UK, and was understandably loath to give an official interview 30 seconds after his appointment at 11am this morning. He did, however, admit that the biggest problem facing him in the UK is the huge discounting going on with Sauvignon Blanc hitting shelves at less than ₤4 a bottle. “It’s a problem that needs to be solved” he said.

Great news for sparkling winemakers is Alcan Packaging’s newly-released product ‘Maestro’. It’s a stylish foil cover that has a Champagne-cork-looking domed top. This slips over a crown cap, locking into it and has an unobtrusive leaver which locks into the side. Lift the leaver and you hear the same sigh that is all part of the fun of Champagne/sparkling wine. Tony Jordan (Domaine Chandon) was on his way to look at it and excited at the prospect of what it offers. Champagne House Duval Leroy is the first to use it commercially and on their top offering — Clos Des Bouveries 2004.

Victor De Bortoli, export manager of the family firm found Wednesday a quiet day but a quality day: “We have spoken with supermarket buyers and seen agents from Scandinavia and Ireland. It’s a time to re-evaluate, to be realistic” he said. Working in a tough environment is not De Bortoli’s concern, but competing with wines coming out of Australia at $18/case FOB is a hard task.

Brett Fleming is the Rathbone Group’s ‘man in Europe.' “It’s a very busy day," he says quickly adding “not in numbers but in the quality of people.” Buyers from Holland, an agent from Denmark and several interested people from the Middle East had been at his stand during the day. The UK wine trade can be hard on those in the lower ranks — managers of Majestic or Wine Rack stores not considered worth the effort, so it was good to see Brett spending time with youngsters, taking them through the wines, teaching them. It will bring rewards for the group in years to come.

Great to see Joch Bosworth out of the vineyard and behind a stand, talking about biodynamic growing and making of his Battle of Bosworth McLaren Vale wines (memo to Louise: he’s doing a good job, you would be proud). Joch’s view is that the show is about cementing relationships. The real work, he believes, will be on the road, visiting customers next week.

One very happy man at the show is Tony Burrin; he’s providing ice buckets and absorbing pillows. A great idea; they go inside a spittoon and absorb around 8L of liquid. Without these people shows don’t work. He also sells glasses and decanters, ice buckets and a very useful slow pour that fits into a screwcap bottle. Others on the market only fit cork bottles, apparently, and screwcap are slightly larger (I didn’t know that). Admittedly he’s not an Aussie but in an era that is seeing many people struggling, it’s good to see a one-man business increasing turnover by 100% (from a small base) in the past year and still going upwards.

Tony Keys has spent 30 years in the Australian wine industry, including stints with the Australian Wine Bureau in London. He heads a small team of wine industry professionals who produce The Key Report – a thought-provoking online publication full of opinions, critical analysis, fearless comment, no-holds-barred interviews, unbiased wine reviews and the kind of in-depth news on the Australian wine industry you just won’t find anywhere else.

For a free 4 week trial of The Key Report, click here. www.thekeyreport.com.au/index.php

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