The London Wine and Spirits Fair (or whatever the hell it’s called this week) has been and gone. And naturally, as devout Mustyphiles, you’ll be expecting the unfeasibly-bosomed one to give her own unique take on events at the first major international show of the year. (Prowein and Vinitaly don’t count – they’re just gatherings of local men wearing too much aftershave). But this year, rather than pen her own hilarious insights, Musty has invited two exhibitors to keep a diary of their three days in the world’s biggest aircraft hangar. So here it is, commentary from the coalface rather than the nearest bar. Come to think of it, if all goes well, Musty might invite them to report from Vinexpo as well…
Edwin Trousered, ET Wines
Tuesday 20th May
My first London Wine Trade Fair and I’m terribly excited. Ever since retiring and setting up my little wine business two months ago, I’ve dreamed of this day. The time when I’ll be able to stand toe to toe with all the famous names of the industry and say “I have arrived”.
To be honest, although I’m obviously delighted to be here, I’m a little disappointed with the stand. When I paid over my entire year’s promotional budget for a “five metre unit” I thought my pitch would be five metres long. I didn’t realise it was five metres square. Those crafty salesmen rogues! Who’d have thought that such sharp practice could exist in a nice business like wine? Still, I’m sure that the investment will more than pay for itself with new business, and although small, my stand looks very nice. The range of Moldovan wines are all lined up proudly at the front, glistening under the lights, and my very own company name, ET Wines sits proudly above my head. Bring on the trade!
Wednesday 21st May
Midday on Wednesday. Half way through my first trade fair and still I await my first visitor. Whoever would have thought that there could be such indifference to the wines of the Caucus?
I even dared to leave my stand at lunchtime to pop out for a sandwich. Alas the queue was so severe that I was gone for one and a half hours! But when I returned my neighbour on the left, a Slovakian manufacturer of cardboard boxes, told me that no-one had been past. Neither he, nor my other neighbour, a producer of elegant miniatures of elderberry wine has had a visitor either. I begin to suspect that our location in this vast arena is perhaps not the finest.
Thursday 22nd May
How our hopes are raised, only to be cruelly dashed! I was awoken at three o’clock this afternoon by a figure looming at my stand. My first visitor! But alas, the chap was not an eager hotelier or restaurateur desperate to fill out his list with some top class and very reasonably priced Moldovan Saperavi, but some scribbler looking for the lecture theatre. Apparently there was a conference on ‘The importance of diversity in the world of wine’.
“What about these wines?” I felt like shouting after his retreating form. “These are diverse and different – and nobody’s come here all bloody week!”
The arrival of a group of young whippersnapper Oddbins buyers was the last straw. They kept extending their index fingers, pointing to my company name and saying “ET go home” in a quite ridiculous voice. But even they didn’t drink anything, though I noticed they filled their pockets with my neighbour’s elderberry miniatures!
I left at four o’clock to catch the train back to Rhyll, my cardboard spittoon unsullied and my resolve shattered. I’m sure I shall bounce back from this, but how? Truly the city is a dangerous place.
Derek Stiff, Megacorp Plonk plc
Tuesday 20th May
Shocking hangover this morning. Doing Tequila slammers with Brett, the Australian wine maker until 3 last night. Pre-breakfast meeting with the sales and marketing boys to discuss strategy – coffee and whizz all round! We’re focusing on Delivering Universal Messages this morning, and Australian Sales Speak this afternoon, (or DUM and ASS) then going out on the lash tonight. Loads of buyers and journalists coming through, there’s a real buzz at our stand. It’s great to be part of such a tight-knit team. Degsy holds the record from getting from one end of our stand to the other without running: 1 minute 30 seconds.
Wednesday 21st May
Shocking hangover this morning. Out with Brett the Aussie and Francisco the Chilean wine maker until 4 last night. Restaurant, cocktail bar, nightclub, strip joint. Wa-hey!
I think I’ll get the £2,000 bill through on expenses OK, though my boss is pretty mad cos I missed the wine buyer from Tesco’s when he came round this morning. I was outside Focusing my Mind on Opportunity then when I came to go back into the hall I got disorientated in a cloud of Italians’ cigarette smoke and went the wrong way. I wasn’t off being sick, though, which is what Gaz told my boss. He’s just jealous cos he’s from a smaller company that we bought this year and I’ve got a better company car.
Today our message is Delivering Quality and Heritage with Every Glass, but my boss had a hard time getting that across to Asda. “They’re only interested in price,” he said. “The fact that some of those Colombard vines are 15 years old just didn’t interest him.” He cut the deal anyway. “We don’t lose too much at £2.99 a bottle,” he said. “We’ll just have to make it up with Sainsbury’s.”
Gaz reappeared at three this afternoon with a bike “to get from one end of the stand to the other”. Didn’t like his comment that it was ‘the only thing in the whole exhibition that I hadn’t tried to ride yet’. I’d have hit him except that everyone else was laughing so hard. What a bunch of lads.
Thursday 22nd May
Woke up on a bench in Hyde Park at 5 o’clock this morning with a mouth like a glass of Algerian Cabernet. Not sure what happened last night but the receipts don’t look good. Where is The Cheeky Chappie bar?
Still, I’m professional, and I was punctually on stand in time for our marketing message of the day, which our boss has called Client Interfaced Stock Dumping.
The team keep blowing kisses at me when no-one’s looking. I think it’s a secret means of encouragement, but I’m not sure my boss is in on it because he gave me an odd look when I did it to him. He was in the middle of a meeting with Sainsbury’s. They have generously offered to take 3m cases in exchange for a 12 month promotional three-for-one package. It’s quite a deal, but that’s the great thing about this trade fair. One moment of genius can change your career path forever.