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Tony Keys: Live From London - Day 3

Whatever the final attendance figures for the London International Wine Fair, the feeling on the floor was that visitor numbers were noticeably down. Not that it was considered a problem by many – plenty of people remarked on the quality of those attending. Paul Henry, general manager, market development of the AWBC brought buyers from Russia, educators from Germany and media from New York to London for the event. For getting the most out of the three days of the show he recommended arriving with “a list of people you want to see; a dozen appointments a day; you have to make the show worthwhile."

Nearly everyone I spoke to approached the 2009 fair with a view on the darker side of positive — the global recession playing on their mind like Mendelssohn’s Funeral March. It was a view that fortunately proved to be wrong. Phil Sexton, proprietor of Yarra Valley-based Giant Steps found it “surprisingly positive. London is hardly dead; restaurants and bars are doing good business." Sexton admitted that sales of his higher-priced wines had dipped but his lower-priced Innocent Bystander range had increased. David Gleave MW, CEO of Sexton’s UK agent Liberty Wines said “it’s been quite a good show — quality over quantity”.

Carman Houston, Mitolo Wines: “It’s been a great show, a fantastic show! 75% of those tasting are aware of the brand so there’s been plenty of reinforcing and building on established relationships. The response from the remaining 25% has been positive and I think we will get some new business out of it.”

Wine Australia’s strong push to re-engage with the UK trade was noticeable at this year’s show, as was their aim to ramp up the values that built Australian wine’s recognition in the 1980s and ’90s. The stand had three sides to exhibit wines, boasting “over 100 wines from Margaret River to the heartlands of the Hunter and many regions between." On offer were three flights of wines, brilliant blends, all new to market. It was a great concept, but did it work? Not completely, in my opinion something Paul Henry admitted, pointing out it could be finetuned or even changed next year. One thing was evident — when a winemaker was on pouring duty, attendance spiked. Noteworthy was the number of winemakers who volunteered to do their bit for the industry.

There were various debates to participate in; some were interesting, worthwhile, probing, adding a new dimension while others seem to be just going around on a treadmill:

‘The role of the wine journalist and their influence on consumers,’ is surely one that is past its prime but many who attended thought it still had mileage. It included topics like ‘how effective are wine columns in today’s newspapers and magazines?’ ‘Is the internet in its various formats more relevant in today’s world?’ A good indication of where the UK wine media is heading is that after 22 years as wine correspondent for the Sunday Times, Joanna Simons contract has not been renewed and her column will be written in-house.

Decanter, not to be outdone by the International Wine Challenge, released its World Wine Awards. Australia picked up 33 Golds and 11 regional trophies.

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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