Comment - Wehring's Way - Farewell LIWF, Hello London Wine Fair
What, no 'International' at the London Wine Fair next year?
The writing has been on the wall for a while now for the London International Wine Fair. And, yesterday, the event's organisers, Brintex, confirmed what many had long expected: The wine fair is down-grading in both focus and size.
I can tell you exactly when people started writing on the fore-mentioned wall of the exhibition: It was in May 2011, when, in just-drinks annual confidence survey of the UK wine market, our findings showed that the UK was no longer considered the most important market for the world's wine producers. For the first time in five years, our survey of the wine industry in the UK said that heads were being turned away from the UK by the likes of the US and Asia-Pacific.
In the two years since then, the wine industry has grown yet more disillusioned with the UK, as supermarket dominance of the sector continues unchecked, the country's authorities continue to nibble at the golden goose through tax increases, and consumers stick around the gondola end rather than spend, spend, spend.
All the while, the LIWF has seen exhibitor numbers slide as wine producers look for growth beyond the UK.
It's quite a fall from grace for the event's home market, long considered to be the perfect market to compete in, thanks to its (previously) low amount of domestic production. If you could make it there, the adage went, you could make it anywhere.
And yet, this year, ProWein in Dusseldorf has thrived while VinExpo in Bordeaux next month has high hopes for growing its international visitors.
At yesterday's presentation of the London Wine Fair 2014 to UK media, the director of the event for Brintex, Ross Carter, was at pains to say that the LIWF is not in competition with ProWein and VinExpo.
There's no doubt in my mind that it once was, but it certainly is not any more.
And, whilst I will be sad to see LIWF go after this month's event, I believe Carter and Brintex are not only doing the right thing by the event by bringing the focus nearer home, they are also doing the right thing by many of the fair's detractors by bringing the location nearer to the centre of London.
I see a bright - albeit a smaller – future for the London Wine Fair.
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