Exhibitors at the Beautiful South tasting gave positive feedback

Exhibitors at the Beautiful South tasting gave positive feedback

Triple-region wine show The Beautiful South kicked off in London yesterday, with a different feel and look to last year's inaugural event.

The mass tasting at Kensington’s Olympia, involving 250 producers from Argentina, Chile and South Africa - attracted minor criticism previously for the slightly haphazard lay-out. Had the organisers - the trade bodies of each country represented - listened to the gripes?

It appeared so.

Each stand was denoted with its country of origin, while visitors were encouraged to ‘build their own catalogue’ by adding producer pages to their ring binder as they found them. Speaking to exhibitors, the overall feedback was positive.

Ivo Hasler of Origin Wines told just-drinks the event was a “big improvement” on last year. “It’s a lot more colourful and doesn’t feel so much like an empty hangar,” he said. “There seems to be more international visitors too - particularly from Scandinavia.” His only gripe was the colour-coding of the floor map, which he said was confusing. Juan Carlos Zamorano of Belasco de Baquedano agreed the clearer marking of producers by origin was a plus point.

Even so, producers were still mixed in together, instead of housed in bespoke sections for each region. This was questioned by one observer but, as the organisers are keen to stress, the event is about “the spirit of collaboration”.

Jemma Calver, a brand manager at Barwell Jones, representing Chile’s Vina Morande, said there seemed to have been more press than customers, but it felt like an event “that you need to be at”.

The only genuinely disappointed producer I spoke to was Elizabeth Kalmund- Jusczk of Argentina’s Altos Las Hormigas. “It’s been rather slow,” she said. “Perhaps the weather is too nice?”

Aside from a few other moans about queues for food, the overall atmosphere of the event felt upbeat with an impressive footfall from early on in the day. No doubt, the atmosphere was helped by the on-going positivity around the South African wine category in the UK. Surprisingly, there were fewer exhibitors than last year’s 224, but this no doubt helped counter the earlier feeling of haphazardness. 

The Beautiful South is expected to take a break next year, as Wines of South Africa focusses on its biennial Cape Wine trade event in Cape Town. Nevertheless, judging by the feedback and atmosphere of this year’s event, it's likely to become a permanent fixture in the UK wine industry calendar.