LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The London International Wine Fair kicked off on Tuesday with 20,000 wines on offer only to trade buyers able to trawl a world of wine under one roof.
The products of the New World nestle next to the Old at London's ExCel center where for over three days some 20,000 buyers will be on the hunt for bargains, bin ends and good gossip on harvests, prices and rivals from 1,200 exhibitors.
Will Broadfoot, marketing director for fair organizer Brintex International said that, like other industries, the wine business had also felt the pinch of the global recession. But he said that consumer thirst for wine meant a shift in trade from restaurants and bars to wine and spirits shops.
"The consumption has just moved from drinking out to drinking in," Broadfoot told Reuters.
As well as the wines, the fair will also offer industry briefings for producers on everything from how to survive the economic downturn to the use of social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to build brand awareness, develop networks and grow business.
The fair has gone into social media with a grouping of its own on Facebook and an online tasting buddy which searches under a list of categories including country, alcoholic content, variety, organic, etc...
Wine judge Christopher Weymouth, who has been involved in the wine industry for 12 years, said the fair was a must for anyone in the trade.
"You can see all your clients and contacts under one roof in three days," he said. "It's kind of like speed-dating."
For the first time, the fair will feature the Sommelier Wine Awards Winners Tasting. The third annual Sommelier Wine Awards, organized by Imbibe Magazine, will be the centerpiece of activity taking place for sommeliers, restaurateurs, and all those working in the on-trade.
Visitors to the S.W.A. Winners Tasting will be able to taste from the 300 gold medal winning and short-listed wines judges by an esteemed panel of some 50 sommeliers earlier in the year.
Running alongside the SWA Winners Tasting will be a Wine List Clinic - where visitors can bring their own wine lists and menus to be analyzed by an expert, free of charge, to look for areas for improvement.
Weymouth agreed with the assessment that the wine industry may be depressed in the global downturn, but that the effect was more likely to be a change in buying patterns rather than volume.
"People may switch to a less expensive French wine from a top Bordeaux or to the New World, but they will still be drinking the same amount."