Coronavirus has gone through the world’s drinks’ fairs like a care-home full of asthmatics.
But just because you can’t be there doesn’t mean you can’t still have a thoroughly miserable time for a few days. Fake Booze takes a look at what’s on offer for drinks masochists in 2021.
London Wine Fair
The biggest event to be called London Wine Fair anywhere in the world has announced a ‘digital’ strategy for 2021.
Apparently, this doesn’t mean ‘counting the number of people who care that it isn’t happening on the fingers of one hand’.
It means ‘moving online’.
The LWF will be arranging a series of virtual lectures, presentations and awards that it promises will be ‘almost as good’ as in real life.
This could set up some thrilling scheduling clashes with daytime TV. Will it be the annual Amorim ‘cork isn’t crap’ debate or Cash in the Attic? That unmissable ‘Southern French red blends under £6’ masterclass or Homes Under The Hammer?
As for tastings, the organisers are looking to deliver 12,000 miniature sample bottles to all who register. A huge logistical undertaking, deliveries are being organised by friends of the Tory government who have decades of experience.
In taking money from the Tory government.
After initial reports that Europe’s fair was being cancelled due to Coronavirus, the exciting completion of a new hall in Dusseldorf’s Exhibition Centre has seen the organisers perform a U-turn that Boris Johnson would be proud of.
‘Depriving people of the chance to see our exciting new cavernous space – to add to the other 36 older cavernous spaces – would have been plain wrong,’ says Prowein chief Bernd Tost. ‘Everyone needs something to look forward to at the moment, and Hall 37 is it!
‘Trust us. We’re German. We know excitement when we see it!’
The fair will be following a ‘socially distanced’ strategy, with 400 people a day being let in. To accommodate this, Prowein will be slightly longer than usual, running from March 21st to November 16th.
‘Of course, it is possible that some exhibitors might see very few people over that period,’ said Tost. ‘But given how immense we are that is probably no different from usual.
‘And since we will have their money, frankly we don’t care.’
Vinitaly bills itself as ‘The world’s most sociable wine fair’.
And its three-pronged strategy – billed on its website as ‘chaos, conversation and cannelloni’ – made it vulnerable to social distancing.
But the organisers are doing their best to help people replicate Verona’s unique atmosphere at home.
All ‘attendees’ will receive a ‘gluttony parcel’ of 12 kilos of pasta, plus a cigarette-scented diffuser to bring ‘authenticity’ to any tastings.
The most influential global buyers will also be sent ‘enough physical Italians to render their study, home or kitchen slightly too full to be comfortable’.
To replicate the fair’s trademark cheerful cacophony, Vinitaly MD Lorenzo Nofrenzo is encouraging all visitors to log in to ‘the world’s biggest Zoom call’ for eight hours each day.
The organisers do, however, admit that the set-up is not foolproof. And even with 3,000 people all talking simultaneously online, they are warning that there is a possibility that some attendees might accidentally get some business done.
‘But,’ said Nofrenzo. ‘We are really trying to be true to the spirit of the event itself, and hope very much that this won’t be the case.’
Officially, Imbibe Live is still taking place this summer.
Unofficially, there’s as much chance of it happening as of a South African winemaker launching his own brand of tofu.
And the nature of the 20-something audience presents some very particular challenges to would-be exhibitors.
‘These Gen Z-ers have restless brains, low attention spans and the ability to multi-task,’ said marketing guru Ad Spend. ‘And yes that’s a euphemism for being drugged-up or pissed.’
Spend recommends that exhibitors start preparing a series of three-second presentational videos that the attendees can follow on their smartphones with one hand while they chop out a line with the other.
‘And don’t forget captions,’ said Spend. ‘If it’s anything like the show, wherever they are they’ll be playing music with the volume turned up so loud your ears bleed.’