LIWF preview

The annual London International Wine Fair, with its spirits arm DISTIL, starts today. Hamish Smith rounds up the best of its offerings  

How to get there

ExCeL is located in the east of London, with two dedicated stations: Custom House and Prince Regent on the Docklands Light Railway. It has parking for 3,000 cars and is 10 minutes from London City Airport where free shuttle buses will operate.

The Jubilee line is recommended as the quickest route to ExCeL London; alight at Canning Town and change onto a Beckton-bound DLR train for the quick 2-stop journey to Custom House for ExCeL (west entrance) or Prince Regent for ExCeL (east entrance).

ExCeL London
Royal Victoria Dock
E16 1XL

Opening Times: May 22-23: 9.30-18.00, May 24: 9.30 to 17.00

As the exhibition director of the London International Wine Fair and DISTIL candidly remarked ahead of this year’s May 22-24 Excel-based event: “We can’t control consumption, taxation and currency exchange.” Indeed the blights described by Brintex’s James Murray are the unavoidable truths of the UK wine market.

But while the perception of the UK as a saturated, stunted market have contributed to the absentee star- names of this year’s LIWF – most notably Pernod Ricard, Percy Fox (Diageo) and PLB – Brintex has unveiled a number of reasons why the show must go on and why this year could be better than last.

For 2012 the show is more aligned to the needs of the UK market and has a “focus on independent retailers”. So, in lieu of playing the numbers game – as is normally the case in the run-up to international wine shows, Brintex has lined up a schedule of events and seminars to support its renewed ‘independent retailer focus’. “We wanted content that would add value to independents’ businesses,” says Murray.

Among the new developments is the Small Independents Pavilion, situated by entrance S3, and the Off Licence News Independent Business Lounge – an invitation-only area aimed exclusively at specialist retailers (F20).

The fortnightly magazine has also teamed up with LIWF to offer a bursary scheme that will see the first 150 independent retailers to register via receiving a £50 travel contribution.

The UK Sommelier of the Year competition will also be hosted by LIWF for the first time, taking place in the on-trade theatre on Wednesday May 23. The competition, which is expected to attract some 180 sommeliers, has been organised by the Academy of Food & Wine Service since its inception in 1988.


On Tuesday there’s the Union Of The Oenologists & Winemakers Of Russia briefing in Q75 from 12.15-13.15, a briefing from Wines of Portugal (14.00- 15.00) and a session entitled Marketing Wine Brands, presented by Nomacorc and moderated by Jamie Goode (16.00- 17.30).

On Wednesday, Euromonitor kicks off proceedings with a talk from 10.00-11.00. Wine Intelligence’s The Science of Choice in the Wine Category is in South Gallery Room 7 from 11.00-12.00. Amorim’s Wine Faults Workshop will focus on the issue of reduction (South Gallery Room 13, 10.30-12.00 and 14.30-16.00). Harpers Wine & Spirit magazine will host a debate in Q75 on engaging with consumers (11.30-12.45pm).

Between 14.30 and 15.30 it’s Wine Intelligence’s Building Brand Loyalty in Wine in South Gallery Room 7. From 16.15-17.30 website will present the results of its State of the Nation survey in Q75. Wine Intelligence is back at 17.00 in South Gallery Room 7 for The Future of Wine in 60 Minutes. But the last word of the show will come from wine website Ukvine, which hosts What’s the Future for English Wine? (10.30 –11.30am).

The undoubted tasting highlight of this year’s show is the International Wine Challenge Discovery Tasting, which takes place across all three days on stand V50 and will feature more than 1,000 IWC entries that are without UK representation.

According to Brintex, IWC competition results will again be announced at the LIWF, giving visitors the first opportunity to access medal winners not yet available on the domestic market. 

Brintex’s Murray says: “It will also provide a fast-track route to some great discoveries for the trade. By segmenting the tasting, we are able to offer a really targeted approach to appeal to the independents, multiples and on-trade buyers coming to the show. Not to mention the interest that this will generate among agents and importers.” 

Wines at the tasting will be split into three sections: on-trade, off-trade high street & supermarket and off-trade independent merchants. Wines from all the key producing regions will be featured, as well as up-and-coming countries such as Brazil, Georgia, Israel, India, Montenegro, Russia and South Korea.

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux will also be making a return with a showing of grands crus wines from the 2008 vintage on Tuesday May 22  from 11.00-16.00. Billed as featuring “some of the most prestigious names in Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac, St Estèphe, Listrac, Moulis, the Médoc, Haut- Médoc, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Sauternes and Barsac” the event is aimed at pan-European sommeliers, importers, multiple specialists, multiple grocers, independent retailers and the press.     

Wine masterclasses, which will all be held in the east end of the hall, kick off on Tuesday with the Niepoort Seminar, which will see ports from 2009 to 1912 presented (Y10, 10.00-11.30). The WSET has its Blind Quality Tasting (white) at stand P75 from 12.00-12.30 on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Wines of Turkey are showing between 12.15 and 13.00 (Y10). Yara Valley’s Chardonnay Evolution or Revolution takes place from 13.45-14.30pm (Y10). The WSET’s Blind Quality Tasting (red) is back at 14.00 at stand P75 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 

The IWSC’s Un-chill Filtered Single Malts is on stand G25 between 14.00 and 14.30. The WSET has its Blind Sparkling Tasting on P75 between 15.00-15.30 on Tuesday and Thursday (and 5-5.30pm Wednesday).  Boutinot Rhône’s presentation of non-classic wines from the southern Rhône is from 15.15-16.00 (Y10). WSET has its Blind Spirits Tasting from 16.00-16.30 at stand G25. Wines of Hungary will be from 16.45-17.30 at Y10 and the day is rounded off with a WSET Blind Fortified Tasting from 17.00-17.30 on Tuesday and 16.00-16.30 Thursday (P75). 

Wednesday May 23 will see Treasury Wine Estates’ tasting of its Penfolds brand from 10.30-11.15 (Y10). The Sichuan Info Center of International Commerce will also run in Y210, from 12.00-12.45, as will a Languedoc presentation by Matthew Stubbs MW (13.30-14.15). From 14.00-14.30 it’s Germany – Young and Wild with the IWSC at stand G25. The New Food and Wine Pairing Workshop run by the WSET will take place from 3-3.45pm at Y10. At 4-4.30pm there will be a tasting of Royal Tokaji with the WSET at stand P75. The day ends with a Wines of Hungary tasting from 4.30-5.15pm. 

On Thursday May 24 there will be Wines of Somontano (sponsored by Viñas del Vero) at Stand G25 between 11:00 and 11:30, and WSET The New Food & Wine Pairing will be at Stand P75 from 12.00-12:30. Asti Group’s masterclass will be in Y10  from 12:00-12:45. The IWSC’s Food & Wine Matching will be on Stand G25 from 14:00-14:30. From 16.00 the IWSC has its Open Tasting of Gold Medal Winning Wines at stand G25. 

Wines to watch

Treasury Wine Estates will be unveiling what it describes as “hidden gems from its portfolio” at stand L42. Visitors to the show will be treated to launches from Treasury’s leading global brands. Winemaker Peter Gago will hold a masterclass on May 25 (10.30) to celebrate the launch of the 2012 Penfolds Luxury & Icon wines. A new range of Beringer will launch alongside new packaging. There’ll be a new look for Rosemount at the stand along with the launch of Rosemount Blends. Low-alcohol Wolf Blass Moscato will also be unveiled, in partnership with new packaging for the range.  

Napa Valley Vintners will have more than 60 wines from 20 wineries available for tasting on the generic California Wine Institute stand (P15) at this year’s LIWF. Each winery will show a Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2001 vintage alongside its current Cabernet Sauvignon and other current releases.

Grupo Codorníu is launching six wines at this year’s London International Wine Fair – the cavas Codorníu Brut and Codorníu Brut Rosado, Raimat Vallcorba 2009, Raimat Brut Nature from DO Costers del Segre, Septima Tardío 2010, and Invivo’s Eight Point.

The Fladgate Partnership, owner of port houses,Taylor’s, Croft and Fonseca, comes to LIWF (O72) armed with a new-look Croft Pink, new vintages for its Late Bottled Vintage range and an impressive selection of mature Single Quinta Ports dating back to 1996.

Kleine Zalze, the family-owned South African wine estate, will be showing new vintages from its Zalze, Foot of Africa and Kleine Zalze wine ranges at the Wines of South Africa stand I40.

Wines of Lebanon (N11) will be returning to the LIWF for a second year with wineries looking to gain a foothold in the UK market. The line-up comprises: Batroun Mountains, Château Ka, Châtaeau Kefraya, Château Ksara, Château St Thomas, Coteaux de Botrys, Domaine des Tourelles, IXSIR and Karam Winery.