With a huge number of wines on display, along with relevant industry seminars and activities, it's important to plan a route through this year's London International Wine & Spirits Fair in order to make the best use of the three-day event.
As its director James Murray says of the show: "It's an opportunity to do business in three days without having to spend weeks flying around the world."
According to Murray, this year's show, which takes place from May 16 to 18, is 5% bigger than last year. This is despite increased consolidation in the wine industry, with the recent announcement of the acquisition of Vincor International by Constellation Wines and last year's purchases of Allied Domecq by Pernod Ricard and Southcorp by The Foster's Group. Murray says: "Consolidation in the wine industry does have an impact on the event's floorspace because it means a considerable drop in meterage by some of the big players. It's a considerable success story, therefore, that we have been able to grow bigger this year."
The fair will be giving increased floor space to a number of pavilions, including ones for France and Italy, as well as the first dedicated area for Israeli producers. France is enlarging its floorspace by 18% and is offering specific areas for Corsica and, for the first time, Champagne. Italy is doubling the size of its pavilion with new dedicated areas for wines from the Abruzzo and Puglia regions.
Murray also says that this year's show will see a number of independent companies exhibiting in their own right for the first time. These will include Laroche, which is moving away from the umbrella of Bibendum, and fine wine and port importer JE Fells, which has not had a presence at the fair for the past couple of years. Les Caves de Pyrene will also be taking space for the first time, as will Australian producer McGuigan Simeon.
More space will be designated for spirits this year as well with the area rebranded as the Spirits Quarter.
Behind the scenes there is also plenty of activity and the show will offer visitors the usual jam-packed selection of seminars and tastings.
One of the new seminar events will be biodynamic wine tasting, which will also offer visitors a chance to see if biodynamic production (which takes into account influences such as planetary rhythm) affects the taste and character of the wines.
Other seminars include a talk on whether wine makers should go down the trendy or traditional route for making wine for people aged 30 and under and another led by Western Wines that will outline the predictions for premium wine in the UK during the 2012 Olympics year.
Wine show briefings will also take place on subjects such as how to promote to consumers and the debate around types of closure.
Visitors to the show last year will probably remember the popular 25th Anniversary Tastings area, which offered a chance to sample wines selected by experts from a range of different countries.
"This event was so successful last year that we decided to run a similar area again called the Top 100 Tastings," says Murray.
The area will feature the best wines from 10 countries, which will be chosen by a panel of UK judges.
Another event at the fair will be a New Zealand Aromatics workshop. A panel of wine makers will lead guests through a tasting of Gewürtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling wines.
As well as seminars, many in the industry will be looking forward to the announcement of the medal winners from the International Wine & Spirits Challenge, co-ordinated by William Reed Publishing.