Early indications suggest visitor numbers for this year's London International Wine Fair are slightly down on last year, but most exhibitors are upbeat on last three days.

As LIWF and its partner spirits exhibition, Distill, come to an end, just-drinks understands that organisers expect visitor numbers to be a few percentage points down on 2008.

However, last year was a record year, with visitor numbers rising 9% to 14,903 compared to 2007.

Moving around the floor, this year's show does appear to have been quieter. Things began to pick up pace after a slow start on Tuesday, and Wednesday, the middle day, was bustling with interest. Still, there is notably more space in the aisles and some have spoken of a more subdued atmosphere.

Organisers would naturally have had more anxiety about this year's event. The UK is in the midst of deep recession as most countries in the world are suffering from after effects of meltdown in the global financial sector.

What is more, the Vinexpo wine fair in Bordeaux, held biannually and still the largest in the world, is set to take place in little more than a month's time.

All that said, just-drinks has gleaned overwhelmingly positive responses to this year's event from many exhibitors. The overriding feeling seems to be that 2009 has been about the quality of visitors rather than the quantity - a view shared by us on the just-drinks stand.

"I wish we could get this kind of quality every year," said Ross Sleet, sales and marketing manager for South African wine firm Kleine Zalze.  

Over at Distill, it must be said, the story is a little different. There were unconfirmed rumours that Whyte & Mackay, the Scotch whisky group owned by India's United Spirits, pulled out at the last minute.

Some have speculated as to whether Distill, which became separate from LIWF for the first time in 2008, will live to see its third birthday. For the record, we hope it does.