Tuesday, May 23, 2006

They came, they saw, they tasted...and then they had a sit-down

You may have felt a little shift in your personal equilibrium last week. Don't worry, it was only temporary and won't be happening again for another year. Because for 3 exhausting days London Excel was packed to the rafters with wine and thousands of wine trade folk from all over the world. As they collectively swirled their glasses and dipped their noses, the earth shifted ever so slightly on its axis and someone in China caught a cold.

For the uninitiated, it is brutal in size and confusing in layout. Not confusing by design, but in the ease with which you can get lost. The major players were there, all competing to have the highest stand so that people could pick them out from several aisles away. And it goes so much further than wine...

The Brazilian Wine Board had a very talented young girl with a football and prodigious keep-uppy skills entertaining people as they browsed through brochures. Nicolas Feuillate brought opera to their Champagne party. In the vodka section...scantily clad women...no great surprises there then. And the most incredible selection of wines from everywhere you can imagine. Whispers in the Costa Coffee queue suggested that VinItaly is seven times the size. Too frightening to imagine. And from macro...to micro...

Life on the Bibendum stand was much like that of the duck on the pond. Cool, calm and collected on the outside, while below the surface, the collective organisational legs paddled like mad to make sure wine was chilled, producers were happy, queries were collected and customers were greeted. The stand was held together with extra sellotape and a prayer as we raced towards the breathless conclusion. The claxon went for full-time and winemakers throughout the vast arena did what they do best....cracked open a beer.


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