This time next week the 2013 edition of the RAW wine fair will have opened and closed its doors in the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, while the 2013 London International Wine Fair will be into the second of its three day stretch at the Excel Exhibition Centre.
The long established London International Wine Fair will doubtless attract more visitors than the two day RAW as it is a much bigger affair. It is equally likely, however, that it will be RAW, organised by Isabelle Legeron MW, which will be the more exciting and get most coverage, especially through the social media.
RAW is one of two natural wines held in London. The other – the Real Wine Fair – was wisely held this year in mid-March as last year the two fairs decided to go head to head in mid-May. The Real Wine Fair attracted plenty of interest this year and I see no reason why RAW should do for as well. It doesn’t appear to matter that there is no accepted definition of natural wine nor that while there are some wonderful natural wine producers, there are some obviously faulty wines. Overall sales of natural wines are tiny but they appeal to a very visible niche group of wine lovers. With an emphasis on less technological wines they appeal to the spirit of the age. An appeal that may well have been strengthened by the recent horse meat scandal. These wine lovers want wines that have been messed about as little as possible. The opposite of what the late Joe Dressner called spoofulated wines. Obviously there’s no place in RAW for Florent Baumard’s cryoextracted Quarts de Chaume!
By contrast the London International Wine Trade Fair, once one of the world’s leading vinous annual meeting places, is in decline. Bookings this year are down by 25%. London’s fair has now been completely eclipsed by Dusseldorf’s Prowein, which is held towards the end of March. The 2013 edition of Prowein attracted 4783 exhibitors from 48 countries and over 44,000 visitors. How long before Prowein overtakes Vinexpo’s visitor numbers. Among the visitors were many buyers from the UK who find the timing of Prowein to be much better than London’s mid-May. Not to mention there being many more producers in Dusseldorf from whom to choose.
The problems of London’s fair also reflect the decline in the importance of the UK once the world’s most dynamic and innovative market. The UK has become very price conscious and more conservative than it used to be.
The decline of the London fair has got to the stage where it is having to be relaunched and rebranded. The 2013 edition will be the last to be held at the Excel Exhibition Centre in East London. Excel has been criticised for being soulless and having poor transport links. For the 2014 edition ‘International’ has been dropped from the show’s title and it will move back to its previous venue – Olympia. There will also be a ban on large, flashy stands with the emphasis on the domestic market rather than attempting to attract international visitors.
Whether moving back to Olympia will prove to be a success will be interesting to see. There has been a push for the fair to return to Olympia but there were good reasons why it moved away to Excel. It’s transport links are not great. Access for the exhibitors getting wine and other material into the centre and the traffic in that part of West London is often very heavy. Furthermore unless there have been changes at Olympia the glass roof makes tasting reds on hot day, especially by the afternoon virtually impossible.
I am looking forward to RAW fair with keen anticipation, while will go to the final edition of the London International Wine Fair because of the talk on grapes varieties by Dr José Vouillamoz before heading off to the second day of RAW.