London Wine Fair Concludes

The London International Wine and Spirits Fair 2004 concluded successfully on May 20th. The 3-day show held at the Excel Conference Center in the dockland area of London was attended by over 10,000 visitors during the first two days compared to a total of 12000 last year. About 14000 persons visited the Fair.

Although the Show is a miniscule version of Vinitaly and the biennial VinExpo, it offered the wine trade an excellent opportunity to taste wines from all over the world and was of great relevance to the Indian wine importers. It was more approachable, tastings were generous, the wine producers warm and willing to share information and many were very keen to do business with India. Majority of the producers already in India participated in the Show.

One thing that hit you while strolling through the Fair was the space taken and the visibility of the South American producers like Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Chile and Spain had really gone out of the way to present their wines directly and through their importers in UK.

A unique feature of the Show was Seminars and an unguided tasting of over 200 wines from over 20 producers like Mondavi, Gallo etc. for On-trade visitors where they could taste and compare various wines at leisure without any interference. On-trade in UK refers to the restaurant trade where wine is consumed on the premises in contrast to the off-trade where the supermarkets and other importers retail or wholesale wine. Separate excise licenses are required for the two trades, something which may be of relevance to our Indian system. Incidentally, I was told by an importer that the import duty of wines in the UK is fixed at GBP 15 per case.

According to one of the organizers, the show may be smaller but is of greater relevance where the New World wines are concerned. About 50% representation was from the new world producers like South America, South Africa, USA, Australia and New Zealand. So it made sense for the UK importers and indeed many international importers to come to this Show if they were looking for wines from these areas.

Indian wine producers were expectedly but sadly missing as participants. I feel it is an opportune time for our government to encourage participation by wine producers in such Shows. With the limited and competitive Indian market, they have to look out for exports, especially since there is a significant niche market for Indian wines globally and exports must be encouraged to improve our quality. Trade Fair Authority of India and the relevant Export Promotion Council should get their act together. Fifteen years ago I used to feel proud finding a small pavilion of the Indian IT companies at the Comdex, the biggest annual computer Show on earth held in Las Vegas. We have obviously come a long way since then in IT. We may not achieve such great heights in wines but there is a great scope and need for international exposure in this field.

The Fair also showcases Spirits, an apology to this sector really with a small participation by the producers and presumably the visitors. The organizers would perhaps do well to organize two different Shows, one called the London Wine Show focusing only on the wines and the other can then look for participation by the Spirits segment. The Fair will be held next year from 17th -19th May, 2005 at the same place.

Subhash Arora

25 May, 2004



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