A ‘raucous’ week in London

Just back from the London International Wine and Spirits Fair where eight producers took Lebanese wine to a new level of UK consumer and trade awareness. The highlight of the three days was undoubtedly the master-class given by Tim Atkin MW, and myself (even if my participation was marginal compared to Tim’s undoubted box office appeal).

The 45-minute session was sold out with the entrance to the master-class area resembling an airport standby desk, with many exhibition-goers turning up on the off chance that there would be a no-show. Tim called Lebanon one of the wine world’s ‘best kept secrets’. Gold dust!!!!

A first for Lebanese wines: Our generic stand at LIWSF 2011

I kicked off the proceeding with a brief overview of the Lebanese industry and its heritage before handing over to Tim who gave a virtuoso eight-wine tutored tasting. Such was his enthusiasm for the wines, the wine makers and the country as a whole, it was difficult to find any room on the stand (right) immediately afterwards.

Madeleine Waters, who heads up the wines of Lebanon campaign, must be commended for having the foresight in organizing a master-class and for being able to convince Tim to lend his name to the project. The fact that he did demonstrates his belief in the product – in this case Lebanon and its wine – and the impact of the master-class and that of the stand as a whole, will resonate for a long time to come.

Another key moment was the dinner at the Dock Kitchen. Decanter called it ‘raucous’ http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/526266/wines-of-lebanon-celebrates-london-anniversary; it was certainly bags of fun, but more importantly there was a tangible sense of team spirit among the producers who surely must have felt the clear benefits of appearing on a branded stand for the first time.

A  generic stand tells a story; it places wines in context; it is credible and, last but not least, it offers a one-stop-shop for the trade to sample a country’s wines.

There was a lone Israeli winery at a nearby stand. It produces 1 million bottles a year (that would make it #3 in Lebanon) but one got no sense of the 50 million bottle, 300 producer Israeli wine industry…one must, I suppose, be grateful for small mercies.

Finally, it was good to see Victoria Moore, the Daily Telegraph’s marathon running wine writer at the dinner. Victoria, who came to Lebanon on the press trip with Tim in November, said that Lebanon would always be special to her. I asked her why, given the other glamorous wine regions she visits on an almost monthly basis. She said it was (and I can’t be sure of her exact words because I was a bottle of Musar 2003 to the good) because it was “different and human”.

I’ll second that.

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