It is wine fair time and Montpellier, Paris and Dusseldorf loom (and that’s even with our non-attendance at various other shows that puncture the calendar at this time of year). All the fairs involve big halls and long hours of tasting and talking... you can guess that Paris offers more than Düsseldorf, but I have to say that the latter is the best organised. I am always happy to see familiar faces if you are in town! We generally manage to have a glass and a plate or two amongst good friends.
On travel matters tangentially, I’ve learnt to curtail my luddish tendencies - many will know that I’ve sometimes refused to regard the fact that St. JOHN really is a 'brand'. But now we have our wines carrying our own label, so fair enough! And happy we are to produce these. However when I visited Lisbon a while back and was shown around the new Time Out Market I was not impressed. For me it was a permanent pop up for tourists, it wasn’t Barnsley Council trying to re-establish their market. My friend, one of Portugal’s finest chefs, was of a different opinion - he was delighted with things. However not long after, Lisbon Council moved against Airbnb to stop people being bought out of their city centre homes by commercial operators. Lisbon has changed quickly. Barcelona has felt the effect too, and they say that Naples is now following. Well done to Time Out for "monetising the brand”, we’ll have our own London T.O.M. soon and more are planned, Montreal and beyond... But here's the question: like Airbnb, Google and the rest, where will they pay their taxes? How deeply does this really benefit the local community? Do we really deserve "pop up world” city centres, rather than permanent positive change in our communities? Whatever they say, Lisbon’s T.O.M. really is for tourists, just like our own Covent Garden Piazza.
Next to Belgum: my view is steer clear of the wine (!) but do visit Antwerp. It is a good town with good beer! And by the way, they don’t speak French. See the evidence below alongside some other interesting drinks- all of them come with warnings- their markings, in a similar way to a salamander, should make you think twice before touching!
Folk have asked and yes, Brexit has hurt the wine trade between France and the UK and both countries financially, much wringing of hands and some heated moments during the year past and longer on our travels. We shall remain steadfast to our small and large producers, the mantra remains quality over price and quality over quantity…. Onward to the fairs!