The Oenophiliac

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My take on LIWF 2012 – Harpers Blog

LIWF 2012 Review

Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review – Blog 

So as the dust settles on another year at London’s premier wine show I ask myself, what did I make of it all and what has changed over the years?

The event was given the theme of ‘Discovery’. We had new countries on show, with China making their UK debut. More focus was given to lesser known wine producing regions such as Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia. Larger stands and masterclasses were given to showcase these wines. On Tuesday, Tim Atkin MW chaired a tasting of wines from Turkey whilst on Wednesday Caroline Gilby MW gave a class on discovering Hungary’s hidden gems. Theatres were set up to host industry briefings and an area was set aside, giving the feel of a small market place, called the ‘Small Independents Pavilion’. This allowed sommeliers and independents alike to source boutique and unique wines like Rubis Chocolate wine, a blend of fortified Tempranillo and chocolate flavours.

It wasn’t just about the wine. The global recession has hit the show this year. Like many other businesses, innovation and out of the box thinking was adopted. How best to utilise the obvious glaring holes around this huge venue.

If you were feeling a touch stressed over the three days a massage stand ‘The Pressure’ was set up to sooth your cranial tics and nerves. Wine trade solicitors popped up this year, a bit of a worry but nevertheless a necessity in context to recent global events. Wine brokers, shipping and logistic companies like J.F Hillebrand occupied large stands.

From a technological stand point, Primera label systems were on show along with, from Belgium, Baeten Vinopolis. Wine in stainless steel kegs anybody? The idea is simple, somewhat obvious alternative for bars and restaurants to reduce their carbon footprint, pouring the wine like beer from a pump.

My favourite piece of technology came from Holland with Wine Stein. They have come up with the ‘Digital Sommelier.’ You can download the software to your smart phone or tablet, type in your food specifications and let the program choose the correct wine for you. Alternatively they offer a bespoke service where a device is installed to your particular business, PC or tablet. Your wine range has been entered and the customer, again, can type in their food requirements and away you go. Simple yet brilliant!

On Wednesday morning Harpers ran a very interesting debate. As part of their ‘Engaging the Customer’ forum, a panel of wine experts from all walks of the trade was set up to pass on their insight via a Q&A session. A suggestion given was the use of language. Talk to the consumer in a way they understand, something that I already adhere to. An interesting theory came from Christina Pickard, US Broadcaster and Blogger, matching music and colours to wines. Example would be a smooth Cabernet could be mentally linked with the relaxing tones of Frank Sinatra. You decide.

Given the diversity in the smaller producing regions available, I opted to keep my glass, for the most part, topped up with these wines.

If I was to give points for innovation then it would go to Litmus Wines. Based in Denbies Wine Estate, they showcased, amongst their commercial offerings, six tank samples. The one that grabbed my attention was a white Pinot Noir. An experimental wine aged briefly in new and old French oak. Slightly high in acidity, the oak does give the fruit some lift. Not bad though!

From a commercial aspect then the wines from Lourensford, South Africa are nothing short of brilliant. My favourite had to be the Winemakers Chardonnay. 100% barrel aged, the wine struck up a good balance between the oak and fruit. Now I try to be careful when using the words ‘Oak’ and ‘Chardonnay’ in the same paragraph. These two make my life awkward when I go back to my day job in the store but this is a reason why the everyday consumer should revisit softly wooden Chardonnay. Great!

Whilst tracking down some bubbles I had to pay a visit to Ridgeview. I can see why they are getting a lot of media attention. The whole range was great but the fizz that I put as my highlight of the three days comes from the Black Sea region of Russia. Abrau Durso – Victor Dravigny Sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon. Good concentration of rich red fruit shooting through the middle of your palate with soft, elegant bubbles.

Finally, from east to west, come the wines from Long Island, New York. Heralded a few years ago as an area that has the potential to match Bordeaux in the future, the wines are showing a lot of innovation, that word again. With insane blends like Channing Daughters Mudd – 72.6% Merlot, 19.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.4% Blaufrankisch and 1.5% Dornfelder, there is no lacking in creative thinking. Across the board, their use of international varieties with old Germanic grapes, old vine clones and native Italian Tocai Friulano, plus Slovenian oak as well as French barrels, was great to see. There really is no end to the New Yorkers ingenuity.

I enjoyed this year’s show. I do wonder where it will end up in the future. With events like ProWein expanding and LIWF visibly shrinking, is the influence of this show on the wane? Stands were larger and, from a design aspect, were worth looking at themselves, but this was just to fill the gaps.

Maybe it’s time to head back to Olympia, after all, the reason it moved to Excel was because it got too big.

* Mike Matthews helps buy wine and manage the North & South wine merchants on Broomwood Road, SW11.


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