As someone who has made no secret of his fears for the London International Wine Fair – unless some very big changes are made – I have inevitably been at the receiving end of many visitors’ and exhibitors’ comments. Extraordinarily, to judge by the majority of them, the only thing the organisers need to do to revive the event is to shift it back into the centre of London. The problem with LIWF is that it’s out in Excel, a difficult place to get to and absolute hell when the trains aren’t working.
There’s no denying the appalling nature of the UK capital’s transport system and it’s a good thing that there aren’t any major sporting events due to be held here this summer, but to suggest that this is a really significant reason for the LIWF’s problems is frankly ludicrous. Some 24,500 publishers managed to attend this year’s London Book Fair, despite the insuperable hazards of the DLR, 33,000 caterers were at Hotelympia and a massive 48,000 people managed to get to last year’s World Travel Market at Excel and a similar number is expected this year.
So, either the wine world is simply more precious than the travel, catering and publishing professions, or the UK wine trade doesn’t warrant a trade fair, or the one we’ve got needs some attention. Now, given the fact that an extraordinary number of members of the international wine trade somehow manages to make its way to Cheshunt when it wants to present its wines to Tesco, Leeds for Asda, or Bracknell for Waitrose – to name but three big UK retailers – none of which is within a convenient distance from Central London, I’d have to say that it’s either the UK wine market or the fair that has a problem. Or both.