Globally local

The London Wine Fair brings producers from across the globe together under one roof. Shay Waterworth previews


Where: Olympia, London W14 8UX

When: 22-24 May 2017

What: Wine fair specialising in on-trade retail

Visitors est: 10,000

Opening times:

Monday May 22: 10:00-18:30

Tuesday May 23: 09:30-17:30

Wednesday May 24: 09:30-17:30


THIS YEAR’S LONDON Wine Fair will represent more than 40 countries from around the world, have 10,000 varieties of wine on display and host debates on Brexit, making it the most diverse show in its 37-year history – all under one roof.

Since moving to Olympia in 2014 the London Wine Fair has grown in popularity and show director Ross Carter is excited by the increasing diversity of one of the world’s largest wine trade events focusing on independent on-trade retailers.

“There will be no other time in the year when this many wine producers get together at one event, so it is an absolute must,” he says. “The importers cover all sizes, from introductory, low cost to mass distribution. There are some countries attending you would never expect to produce wine, such as Azerbaijan or those in central Asia. Even volcanic wines are now very trendy.”

Carter is keen to demonstrate this diversity by staging a variety of tasting sessions, masterclasses, pop-up events and even a workshop for businesses with fewer than five employees.

“We’ll have three spaces for tasting at the wine fair. We have the masterclasses, which is an 80-seat tasting theatre for hour-long sessions on diverse subjects and contemporary wine styles, with interest on the trade as well. In particular, independent retail and the on-trade markets, which has been happening for many years.

“We like our industry professionals to try to be education-led. We understand there’s a brand aspect in the trade but we favour education.”

There are many wine trade events around the world with thousands of wines on offer, but Carter still backs the London event to flourish.

“There are an awful lot of wine trade events, some would argue too many, but I think the London Wine Fair is the one time of the year that the great and the good of the wine trade all come out to play.

“There’s a 14,000 audience over three days, so the atmosphere is quite something.”

According to Carter the London Wine Fair is the perfect place for wines without representation to grow their brands.

“The London Wine Fair is the best way to meet retailers first-hand, particularly because it’s in May when wine isn’t vintage. And if you haven’t already got representation then I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet a broad selection of importers – well over 100 of them, in fact.

One brand he is particularly excited about is French producer Château Latife Rothschild.

“The Rothschild collection is taking part for the first time ever and it really is a royalty of wine production. I’m sure when it opens a bottle of its 2010 vintage it will attract a lot of interest.”

Wines of Georgia and Wines of Germany are two big producers returning to the fair after nearly 10 years of absence.

“It’s a real coup for us to have them with us because German wines are of particular interest to the trade, a real trade favourite.”

Olympia is a 43,000sq m venue which hosts a wide variety of retail shows.

“There’s no doubt that moving from the Excel building in east London a few years back has helped make the event what it is today,” says Carter.

“At Excel it had become one of the big continental wine events, very brand driven with big stands. We wanted to reinvent the wine fair in Olympia so we moved our focus to on-trade independent retail, such as restaurants and wine merchants.

“What we want to do is take our progress from the past three years and deliver it smoothly,

“In this trade a lot of business is done over dinner at restaurants or in bars so it’s important to have the fair somewhere such as Olympia in the heart of west London.”

Because the event is held in Britain, the world’s largest wine importer, is it such a ridiculous idea to expect any home representation?

“There’s never been a bigger selection of UK businesses taking part at the wine fair. That’s been true every year since we moved back to Olympia four years ago.

“In terms of the interest levels of British production wines we’ve seen a significant increase. We sent out a questionnaire to our exhibitors that showed England is the fifth most interested-in country exhibiting wines at the show, beating the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, and we’re expecting around 20 British wine producers to be present.

“We’ve been very conscious to create an event that reflects the business it serves, in that there are opportunities for anyone, from importers of just two people, to people in a garage, to London’s biggest importer.”


Everyone who attends the show can forget about trawling through their fair book to find information on every wine they wish to taste. Instead there’s a geeky but efficient way of doing it.

“We partnered with a German wine tech firm a couple of years ago called Bottle Books, which has a global data warehouse of wines with all of their details logged online. A problem the trade had faced for a number of years was that there was no one version of the truth when it came to a wine and its facets.

“At the show this year we will have the most advanced search facility for product information in the world. This means at the fair you’ll be able to access this data and look up the 7,000 wines on show at the event.

“Obviously we couldn’t just create a book because it would be thousands of pages long, but now with this data hub it will be easy to navigate and get the most out of the experience.”

Earlier this year the WSTA Bordeaux show announced its plans to discuss Brexit in-depth and London will be no different.

“We’ve got two British MPs hosting a discussion surrounding Brexit and we’re very close with the WSTA as well, which has released Brexit documents 50 pages long.

“It’s a unique situation with Brexit and the wine business in that 99.9% of the product is imported and it’s typically large-produce, low profit margin, particularly in the mass production market, which accounts for the vast majority.

“When exchange rates fluctuate as frequently as they have in recent times it’s had a significant impact on the industry. Whatever happens in the next two to 10 years the simple fact is that the market has already been hit hard as a result of exchange rates in the past six months.”

The London Wine Fair has the potential to inspire independent retailers from around the world, expand local wineries into big UK brands, increase distribution of quality wines, perhaps internationally, and even solve a potential crisis for the largest wine importing country on the planet. So why not?