Like most people in the wine trade, I had been looking forward to the 22nd London International Wine and Spirit Fair for some time. It is the world’s largest professional wine tasting event and this year’s had been billed as the largest yet. With over 1,200 exhibitors from about 30 different countries, you could see why.
The May event has been held at the Olympia exhibition hall in Kensington, London. It has finally outgrown that venue and so, this year, has moved to the much larger premises of ExCeL in the regenerated London Docklands.
I soon realised that it would be impossible to go round all the exhibitions in one day. Instead I decided to choose a theme to work to: the minor wine-producing countries.
‘Minor countries’ is my own description of a collection of wine-producing countries from both the old and new worlds. These countries have yet to make a big commercial impact on the wine world and for the purposes of this exhibition included Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Hungary, Switzerland, Tunisia and Uruguay.
Of these, Bulgaria and Hungary already have a reasonable impact but I was keen to find out more about what they had to offer. I decided that little could be achieved by attempting to go around all 60 or so stands of wines from Chile or the more than 180 from France. So I stuck mainly to the minor producers, although I did briefly stop at one or two other stands – like champagne. I tasted one of the first-ever vegetarian and vegan champagnes. Produced by Duval-Leroy from 100 per cent Pinot Noir, it has the same full, yet dry and toasty flavour one would expect from any medium-priced champagne. Certainly worth the money.
One of my most enjoyable stops was at the Hungary stand where I was able to taste wonderfully luscious Tokaji from three different producers.My preference was for the Royal Tokaji Wine Company’s range (see right).
It was a great opportunity for networking and meeting the movers and shakers of the world wine industry. Join me over the next few weeks as I reveal more about what I discovered on my trip round the stands at the exhibition.
‘The wine of Kings and the King of wines’ is how Louis XIV described Tokaji. A luscious mixture of caramel, peaches, apricots and honey, it is a dessert wine to die for. Serve it slightly chilled as an aperitif, with blue cheese, or with most sweet desserts.