Andrew Catchpole: review of this week's SITT tastings in London and Manchester

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The buzz at the Spring 2013 round of Specialist Importers Trade Tastings (SITT) in London and Manchester confirmed the trade’s appetite for more focused events, reflecting the ever-increasing popularity of tailored tastings aimed at the independent sector of the market.

 

Under the banner ‘Wines with Wow Factor’, SITT saw some 60 of the UK’s leading quality suppliers showing individual, rarer and new wines, all exclusive to the non-multiple independent trade. And the overwhelming feedback from both attending buyers and exhibitors was that SITT delivered a fantastic platform not just for tasting great wines, but also one where business was done.

 

“This was a really good day for us, crazy good” said Damon Quinlan, capturing the mood from behind the hectic Swig stand at London’s Royal Horticultural Halls. “We have seen a lot of very good people, the quality of attendees is great, the venue is ideal, and it’s been non-stop all day.”

 

Similarly, the attendees, reading like a roll-call of top independent merchants and restaurant buyers, along with influential press, were upbeat about the wealth of appropriate wines.

 

“We are opening a new restaurant, Grain Store, and I’m looking for wines that are dynamic and different,” said Emily Harman, buyer at the Zetter Group. “This is a great tasting where suppliers show unique wines, from smaller wineries, with personality and that is exactly what I’m looking for.”

 

“This is aimed at people like me, and the size is good for covering a lot of ground,” said Tim Pierce of Grape Expectations. “These [exhibitors] are people that talk the same language as the independent and on-trade and I don’t have to compete with multiples and big players here.”

 

Laying down a gauntlet to the already beleaguered London International Wine Fair (LIWF), a common theme voiced by both exhibitors (several of whom had chosen SITT over LIWF this year) and attendees was the relevance of tastings such as SITT that cater specifically to the independent sector needs.

 

“You could spend a couple of days here, I’ve found a lot of new wines and new producers,” said Henry Butler of The Butler’s Cellar in Brighton. “It’s useful not only because it allows smaller importers to come together so I don’t have to attend several individual portfolio tastings, but also because it’s focused on what people like me do - I can attend SITT and a few other focused tastings like the Dirty Dozen instead of LIWF.”

 

Exhibitor Nicky Burston, director of World Wine Agencies, also highlighted the advantages over LIWF, saying: “We decided to do SITT instead of LIWF because it suits our aims and everyone we have seen has been 100% target market, good quality buyers, independents, and this is our focus.”

 

Furthermore, the timing of Spring SITT also coincides with a key period when most independents are busy revamping and updating their lists.

 

With the independent sector arguable the only part of the UK wine scene in good health, the discrete presence of generics, including New Zealand, Germany and Brazil, also spoke volumes about the style of platform that the trade is now favouring to reach these premium retail outlets.

 

Having recently and successfully hosted its inaugural Asia-Pacific event in Singapore, SITT will return again to London this Autumn in time for the next round of independent buying for the all-important Christmas trading period.

 

For more information on SITT go to: www.sittastings.com

 

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