The annual London International Wine Fair held at ExCel Exhibition and Conference Centre in Docklands is a commercial wine fair bringing suppliers and buyers together for the purpose of doing business. So in a way it was a surprise to find any rare grape varieties there at all.
We only had a couple of hours to scratch the surface but the pickings were not bad at all and we came away with positive hopes for the future in spite of some fantastic howlers committed by representatives manning the stands with their specialised wines on offer. Examples included girls on the vast Sicilia stand who assured us that Etna was a grape variety (admittedly they slunk off when we started to read the back label of one 'Etna Rosso'), men on the equally grand Argentinian stands who had never heard of Bequignol (of which Argentina produces more than Riesling as we have already noted in these pages), Saperavi Severnyi - a mystery to those on the Georgian stand, and only vague awareness of Negrara as a variety of grape on the Valpollicella stand (they assured us it was a village, not a grape until they remembered the village is Negrar and not Negrara). OK we may have been showing off a bit to these unfortunates but there is a more serious point in that grape varieties are not always considered as particularly important. On the Rias Baixas stand they were nonplussed to be asked about the Reds of Galicia and even wondered if there were any drinkable ones! On Vini Portugal there was a young rep who had never heard of Colares and another who reckoned it was too expensive for what it was which was not great! It was all we could do not to spontaneously combust.
Fortunately there were far more really well informed reps and we were glad to have been given several invaluable tutorials on the following on our short stay;
Baco Noir and other New York wines
Hunter Valley Semillon
Schioppetino, Picolit and Piculit
Separate blogs on each of these may be found above.
No doubt there were plenty more gems but where else could we find and taste all this under one roof? We would have liked to explore the national stands of Brazil, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Lebanon, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey but we did pass by Hungary where we were disappointed not to find any Cserszegi Fuszeres, Jufark, Kiralyleanyka, Ezerjo etc. and an Indian winery new to us called 'Sveta' whose Chenin Blanc was positvely the best Indian Chenin Blanc we have ever tasted (pure and clean).
Most of the wines that interested us were without representation or importers in the UK which re-inforces our impression that although more eclectic than many it is only a few species of wine that we are offered in this country. Most lacking are the aromatics and the light food wines. There is a preponderance of heavy, chunky, strong and warming wines on our shelves, each trying to demonstrate maximum extraction but without offering a wide variety of flavours.
There were no English, Welsh or Irish wines represented...