The first digital London Wine Fair has been hailed as “the most significant online event for the drinks industry to date”.

The event, which took place May 17-19, attracted visitor and exhibitor numbers which exceeded expectations, according to the organisers, and this affirmed the decision to move to a fully digital event in light of the pandemic; a decision which was made only four months ago.

A total of 2,608 visitors attended the London Wine Fair with 238 virtual stands, showing more than 3,435 different products from 33 different countries.

Borough Wines, which partnered with the event to manage sample rebottling and deliveries, reported that just over 25,000 individual samples have been sent out prior to and during the Fair, with further samples expected over the coming days and weeks.

The 28 sessions, which included Tasting Masterclasses, Industry Briefings and Panel Discussions, have been viewed nearly 6,000 times so far, with 154 people watching The Fair’s headline briefing live on the first morning: the WSTA’s “Wine Trading 2021: Where are we?” hosted by chief executive Miles Beale.  

Almost 9,500 meeting communications took place throughout the three days, within the networking platform; these were a combination of those suggested by the algorithm as well as meetings proactively prompted by attendees.

Hannah Tovey, head of the London Wine Fair, said: “It’s hard to believe that we made the decision to make this year’s Fair a 100% digital event less than four months ago. Not only that, but to create an additional “Welcome Back Wednesday” preview event on April 28, specifically to support the on-trade in advance of outdoor hospitality opening; conception to delivery was just five weeks.  The results have been ground-breaking for the drinks industry.

“We had the immediate support of many of our exhibitors, for which we are immensely grateful.  We were also keen to encourage new producers to the show – discovery is always at the heart of the London Wine Fair – and were delighted to welcome new and returning exhibitors this year, including Hallgarten & Novum, Wines in India, Wine Owners and Wines from Greece, amongst many others. 

“Many of the decisions we have taken when building the digital show have been made with 2022 in mind. We strongly believe that a hybrid London Wine Fair will be absolutely invaluable to enhancing our exhibitor experience, whilst opening the show up to a larger potential audience and providing a platform beyond three days in May. Whilst digital will never entirely replace in person tastings and face to face meetings – so vital in our industry – the online aspect brings another dimension to the event and is something we will look to incorporate moving forward.”

The London Wine Fair platform will remain in place for a further three months, allowing registered visitors access to samples via exhibitor stands as well as recordings of the schedule of content.

The dates for the 2022 London Wine Fair, which will take place at Olympia and online, will be May 16 – 18, with a further three months hosted on the digital platform.