The London International Wine & Spirits Fair kicked off yesterday with an announcement of the winners of this year's International Wine Challenge, organised by William Reed Events & Exhibitions.

France ran away with the most medals, just ahead of Australia. The Old World wine producing nation won 612 medals, ahead of Australia's 490. The two rivals are neck and neck however in terms of Gold medals with 50 a piece.

This year's IWC competition was organised by the publisher of The Grocer magazine, William Reed Publishing, for the first time.

Managing director for William Reed's Events & Exhibitions, Andrew Reed, said: “When we took over this event we decided to reveal the winners now instead of waiting until September as was the case in previous years. This way, consumers will know what to drink this summer.”

The competition, now in its 27th year, had entries from 35 countries out of which 27 won medals, including Cuba, Japan, Romania, Slovenia and Uruguay.

Also at the Fair yesterday visitors attended a Biodynamic Wine Tasting event and seminar hosted by Nicolas Joly from Coulée de Serrant. The event broke all attendance records with over 100 people attending.

Visitors learned how this agricultural movement differed from organic agriculture in its use of tiny quantities of biodynamic preparations per hectare.

London's annual wine event, which closes tomorrow, is expected to attract more visitors than ever before to an exhibition of wines that grows in size every year. This year the exhibition is 5% bigger than last year, according to its organisers, with many importers and agencies taking extra floorspace to display their increased portfolios.