It seems like every country has their own large scale, international wine fair, and some do better than others. In the past few years, the London International Wine Fair (LIWF) has been getting smaller. Why is that you may ask? Well, after my visit there this past week, I realized it wasn’t that international after all. Although countries from all over the world were represented there, only some of the actual producers were present. For the most part, it was a fair for the English. There, restaurateurs could walk around, taste wines and speak to the importer about getting a certain wine for their place. This is all great, but maybe the fair should be called the London-English Wine Fair?
On the other hand, the two natural wine fairs offered much more at much less of a price. While the LIWF was held at the modern and beautiful EXCEL center, with its restaurants and food stands, press centers and filmed stands, both RAW and REAL where held in less ‘decorative’ spots in the center of town. RAW, the first of the two I went to visit, was held in the Old Truman Pub warehouse – an open space, with white painted brick walls and skylights instead of windows. The tables where lined up and for the most part, the different countries represented where located near each other. Since often the producers of organic wines don’t own a lot of land and, therefore, only have a limited quantity of bottles, they do most of the marketing themselves. Personally, I think it’s important to speak directly to the producer if you want to understand the process and the decisions made for their wines; and at RAW you could do just that. REAL was the same idea. Although, there was a large amount of producers all talking up their product, I can’t say I loved the space. Located in the underground of the Victoria House in Holborn, the space seemed as if work was going on at the same time with electrical lines and holes in the walls. Light and fresh air was scarce and for that reason, so were the people. Something I really liked about both these fairs was their dining section. Both offered organic foods like smoked salmon, cheeses and salumi and dishes cooked up by local restaurants. When drinking that much wine, it is important to eat something. Having the choice of diverse organic foods added to the quality of the fairs. The other thing to take note is that the folks at RAW really worked hard at putting on a great event and it showed. They sent out letters of thanks for the participation, had wifi located in the fair, and posted highlights via email of the events involved with their fair. Good job guys!