Saturday, April 3, 2010
Why I Love VinItaly
In a few days, I am off to Verona for VinItaly, the massive wine fair that takes place for five days in early April. I don't attend every year, so I greatly look forward to being there after missing last year's event.
Now I was warned before I went for the first time some seven years ago that the place is too crowded, too noisy and basically, a zoo. Well, I agree with those sentiments to a point, as it is a sea of humanity and you're always bumping into people. Also with more than 5000 producers there, how do you manage your time? It's really not easy, so you do the best you can.
If all of this sounds like a recipe for a bad time, well maybe it is to some people. But I tend to focus on the positives - how could I get through this if I didn't? To me this is an invaluable experience, so let me list the reasons I love going to VinItaly.
1) Vermentino Nero
Yes, you read that right, a Vermentino Nero! I just received a press release from Cantine Lunae of Liguria, which produced its first bottling of Vermentino Nero, made from the indigenous variety that was thought to be extinct. They will be premiering this wine at the fair, and based on this producer's superb bottlings of traditional Vermentino, I can't wait to try this wine.
It's these types of discoveries you find at the stands of so many producers at VinItaly that make this more than an exercise in sampling new releases.
2) A Viticultural Tour of Italy
This may go without saying, but this fair gives one the opportunity to take a viticultural trip throughout the Italian peninsula. While I'd love to visit wineries instead of sampling wines at a fair, let's face it, how long would it take you to travel from Valle d'Aosta to Sicily (even if the trains were on time!). You can walk from one pavilion to another in just a few minutes, try each region's wines and usually do your tasting with the winemaker or winery owner. Just to coordinate all those meetings on the road would take hours or days (not to mention the wrong turns you'd probably make if you were driving).
One of the wines I truly love from Italy is Franciacorta, the classy sparkling wine from Lombardia. But let's face it, most of us rarely get to try too many brands as most of the area's producers don't export their wines to America. You can understand that as many of the products are in the $35-50 range (with a few special cuvées priced above $75); in reality, most consumers are not looking for Italian sparkling wines in that price range, especially given today's economic reality. I could argue that they don't know what they're missing, but that's for another post.
So I'm looking forward to tasting not only the new releases of Bellavista and Ca'Del Bosco, two remarkable producers, but also the bottlings from estates I have yet to try, such as Enrico Gatti, Ferghettina, Giuseppe Vezzoli and Camossi.
4) Seeing some dear friends
After 42 trips to Italy, I've met a lot of wonderful people and made some great friendships, from estates in Piemonte all the way to Sicily. Again, while it would take weeks to catch up with all these people, I can say hello to them over the course of a few days, taste their new wines and get an honest appraisal of what's happening on the Italian wine scene. So I can't wait to catch up with Luca Currado, Alessio and Francesca Planeta, Andrea Ferraioli and Marisa Cuomo, Pietro Ratti, Filippo Antonelli, Alberto Longo and hundreds of other friends at the fair.
5) The cutting edge
Let's face it - not only will I have the lowdown on the new 2009 whites from Fruli, Alto Adige, Campania and Liguria, but I'll also have the opportunity to get the lowdown on the new bottlings of Brunello di Montalcino (2005) as well as the newest offerings of Barbaresco (2007) and Barolo (2006). To have this opportunity at one event is priceless.
Believe me, when I return I'll have lots to write about, both on this blog as well as on my other blog, solely devoted to Italian wines, learnitalianwines.