Editorial comment: LIWTF 2000; a show of strength

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Exhausted after a successful week at the LIWTF Chris Brook-Carter, just-drinks Wine and Spirit Editor, runs the rule over the biggest show of the year.

It's always with a mixture of relief and sadness that I watch the domino effect that hits Olympia at 5pm on Thursday evening as the stands come down. Relief that I can finally sit down after three days either on stand-duty or doing the rounds on the floor, and sadness that the UK wine industry's biggest professional and social gathering is over for another year.

By all estimations this year's event was the best yet. Overall attendance was 14,973, which included 11,826 individual visitors, an increase of 15% on last year. 20% of non-exhibiting visitors through the door were international, a 26% rise from last year. A further breakdown is unavailable at present, a power failure at Olympia last night is the culprit apparently.

In a reflection of the current retail trends in the UK, the New World dominated the show. The Australian's have this thing down to a tee now, which ever genius at Hardy's came up with the idea of offering cold beers to visitors on the stand is worth his or her weight in gold. As usual the Oz stands were highly visible and user-friendly. The big surprise, given the criticism they have received recently over public relations, was the South Africans, whose presence this year was massive. "You couldn't throw a stone without hitting a South African this year," was one visitors eloquent response to the question of who had made the most impact.

Encouragingly there seemed to be a reasonable coloured contingent among the South African representatives. However, the message from the seminar held by the South African coloured winemakers on Wednesday was that although change was on its way it was not coming quick enough.

The "Stand of the Show Award" goes to the Argentines. Their generic stand had a great stand-out effect without being brash, and the wines on offer were among the most interesting available. "It is easy to see why some Australian's are worrying our wines are too fruit driven. Some of these Argentine wines have such great elegance," said one Australian producer.

Other interesting wine additions to the show were contributions from Mexico, Thailand and Lebanon. The spirits pavilion is also slowly beginning to make an impact. Berentzen were in rude health as synergies from the takeover of Dethleffsen seem to be kicking in. The boys on the Boru stand looked like they were kept busy with stand-traffic all show, as were those on the Cachaca 51 stand - although this might have had something to do with the half-naked samba dancers that fronted their proceedings.

In contrast to the New World, the French generic stands were disappointing. They were dwarfed by their Wallaby and Springbok neighbours and reflected nothing of the character of France. With the Rhone Valley one of the few exceptions, it was a sad indictment of the way many in France have lost touch with the modern pace of marketing. That the region of Bordeaux was not even generically represented at the show is ridiculous. Officials from the great region were there and are apparently now considering participation in the coming years - but to be quite frank it is about time.

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