Opening its doors for the first time next week, the exclusive on-trade wine show Wine+ is expected to establish itself as the most important event inthe calendar for wine buyers and sommeliers. Fiona Sims sets the scene
Here's a great idea for you: a wine show that's aimed at the on-trade. Wine+ opens its doors for the first time at the National Hall in London's Olympia on 17 January, thanks to the folks at FreshRM, a joint venture between Montgomery Exhibitions and Reed Exhibitions. The brain behind it is Andrew Evans, who used to run the show at the annual London International Wine & Spirits Fair, so we're talking plenty of good contacts here.
Expect a variety of exhibitors, from International Wine Challenge Best On-Trade Supplier Berkmann Wine Cellars to generic wine bodies such as event launch partner Wines of Chile, whose managing director Michael Cox declared recently: "The on-trade is a hugely important sector of the wine trade, and reaching and connecting with the key people within it is not easy. Wine+ is uniquely structured to offer the on-trade something new and different."
In short, no more ploughing through bottle after bottle that has been snapped up by the high-street retailers all the wines here are on-trade-friendly. Head to the Taste Zone, an "impartially-themed" selection of wines to get your taste-buds going and your wine lists buzzing.
And the show is not just about tasting wine. Wine+ is also offering a Live Theatre with a series of "entertaining and interactive sessions", which sounds promising, plus a Business Clinic with a packed programme of on-trade-focused seminars. For more information on visiting the show go to www.wineplus.co.uk or call 020 7886 3077.
Live Theatre highlights
• Chocolate queen, author Sara Jayne-Stanes (who also happens to be director of the Academy of Culinary Arts) is teaming up with another chocoholic, Sarah-Jane Evans (a Master of Wine, no less) to present a chocolate and wine tasting, asking that crucial question: a killer combination or match made in heaven? (17 January, 10.30-11am).
• And while we're on the subject of food and wine tasting - in fact, if that's your thing, you're in for a treat: there are five different seminars on the subject - go and listen to Cinnamon Club restaurant manager Mike Worrall, with a little help from sous chef Hari Kumar, hold forth on the tricky business of matching wine with Indian food (17 January, 12.30-1pm). If you miss it, then another wine-savvy London Indian restaurant, Quilon, will do the honours on 18 January at 3.30-4pm.
• Stuck on port and Stilton? There's so much more out there and so many more combinations, as top London sommelier Gearoid Devaney (pictured left, from Tom Aikens in Chelsea) and the Big Cheese, Patricia Michelson (of London's La Fromagerie), will show you (18 January, 4.45-5.15pm).
• Anyone out there still serving wine in Paris goblets? Then get thee to Peter McCombie's "Taste the difference - serving wine using the correct stemware". You'll never look at a wine glass in quite the same way again. And, yes, size - and shape - does make a difference (17 January, 1.30-2pm 18 January, 1-1.30pm).
• Italy is hot stuff on top restaurant wine lists right now - but if you need convincing, then head to Antinori's Stefano Leone's demo "The versatility of Italian wines with today's modern cuisines" (3.30-4pm).
• Papillon in London's Chelsea shifts large volumes of sweet wine, reveals manager and wine buyer Philippe Messy, pushing up profits further. You don't know your Sauternes from your Tokaji? Then head to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust's David Hunter's potentially lucrative lowdown on "The great sweet wines of the world" (18 January 11.45am-12.15pm).
• How are you on grape varieties beyond the big four - Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc? What would you do if a customer asked you for a glass of Albariño or Torrontes? Look blank? Then sign up for "Up and coming varietals from around the world" (2.15-2.45pm).
Business Clinic highlights
• When San Francisco restaurant Bacar put obscure Austrian grape variety Grüner Veltliner on its list by the glass, sales soared, and now practically every top restaurant in the US city lists GV. Want to know what's hot and what's not? Then head to wine consultant Peter McCombie MW's seminar of the same name (17 January, 10.45-11.15am).
• To get a well-balanced wine list you need to use a minimum of three suppliers. So to get the inside track on who is good, don't miss "Suppliers - the good, the bad and the ugly" (17 January, 11.45am-12.15pm), hosted by Harpers magazine editor Christian Davis, RBM Leisureco UK director Murray Harris and master sommelier Ronan Sayburn of the Gordon Ramsay Group.
• Are you getting your wine service right? Or is your sommelier putting customers off? Wine research company Wine Intelligence has come up with tons of useful info since its inception, so it's worth making time to listen to its latest research, "Are you being served? The customer wine experience in 20 restaurants" (17 January, 12.45-1.15pm 18 January, 11.45am-12.15pm).
• Do you even need a sommelier? This is one of the questions being raised by Harpers editor Christian Davis, Gordon Ramsay's executive head sommelier Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, in "The sommelier - friend or foe?" (18 January, 1.45-2.15pm).
• Are you a cork dork? One of those who still struggles with the screwcap? Not the opening of it, you understand, but the whole concept - lack of ceremony, downmarket image, etc - then stop by wine writer Jamie Goode's little talk, "Cork versus screwcap versus synthetic - the debate so far" (18 January, 4.45-5.15pm).
Pick of the show
The Godfather of Sommeliers, Gerard Basset
He will team up with his long-term sidekick Henri Chapon to do a sommelier masterclass at Wine+. Basset, for those who aren't familiar with the silver-tongued Frenchman, co-founded the hugely successful Hotel du Vin group, while Chapon, once part of Basset's double act, masterminded the Ecole du Vin. A rare opportunity to learn the skills needed at the top end of the trade from two boys at the top of their game. Held in association with the Academy of Food & Wine Service and the Court of Master Sommeliers (16 January, 4.45pm).
Clare Young and Liz Robertson MW
The self-styled Trinny and Susannah of the Wine World, Young and Robertson run Vintellect, which has selected wines and compiled lists for more than 500 pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants, significantly boosting wine sales in the process. They will be offering free consultations at Wine+ on how to make the most of your wine list. Just pre-book a 15-minute slot (call 01372 371093 to arrange a time), take your list along, and let Clare (pictured above) and Liz lay your wine list bare, advising you on how to improve it and increase sales. There's also a chance to win a free "makeover" - to the value of £1,500 - for anyone taking up the consultation. Visit them at stand 133.
Bubbly on tap…
… thanks to the Waiter's Friend Company (stand 115) and its new portable wine and Champagne by-the-glass preservation system PresorVac (above). Once opened, it will keep up to 14 days, claims the company's Paul Fenner. And at £145, it's a tad cheaper than a fixed system. Demonstrations will take place throughout the show, on the hour, every hour.