Working at consumer wine fairs is hard graft. But it is also – scary thought – a great opportunity to meet the general public and find out what really interests them.

The Wine Show at the Business Design Centre in Islington, aka the ‘UK’s only consumer wine fair’, has to be the coalface of the wine trade. Between Thursday 23rd and Sunday 26th October 2008, I, like the rest of the exhibitors from all over the wine producing world, will be pouring, talking and selling wine to the anticipated 15,000 visitors. If we can retain our enthusiasm for the product by the end of the show then it really is true love!

This year I will be working on the Wines of Argentina stand (a country which is increasingly capturing my imagination – wine and mountains, what could be better!) with a group of producers coming over especially from South American for the show. I am looking forward to meeting them but how they react to the Great British public is yet to be seen.

Most visitors are enthusiastic about wine. They come wanting to try different things, to learn something, to buy a few bottles to drink at home. While people always enjoy background information, questions about alcohol levels and price are by far the most commonly asked. However after a few hours and many, many free samples the noise level at the show goes up and up and people do revert to type.

There are those who want to pour as much free wine down their throats as they possibly can. There are the wine bores who try to trip you up with awkward questions and pontificate to all around in an attempt to intellectualise their alcoholism. There are those who obstreperously proclaim that they like ‘sweet white’ wine and leave converted to rich reds. There are those who change their mind about what they like when they discover a wine they dismissed sells for a higher price.

And finally there are those who are genuinely enthusiastic. Who block out the bedlam in the room around them while they have a conversation with the wine in their glass. They may ask you questions, but it is the drink that does the talking and convinces them whether they should or shouldn’t buy this bottle, or re-visit this style at some point in the future. Luckily this group of people are by far the majority or visitors to the wine show and most of them are genuinely pleasant and interesting.

Still 15,000 is an awful lot of people and I know that no matter how enthusiastically I will try to talk about Argentinean Malbec or Torrontés and answer their questions, I know that the best drink that I’ll have on Sunday will be the cup of tea I’ll have when I finally get home. 

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