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).

3) Franciacorta

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.


  1. I'm bummed that I'm not going this year but am glad I'll get to "live it" through your blog, man! next year, we'll have to taste there together...

  2. J:

    I'll do my best to report on the most interesting wines. Yes, too bad you can't be there in Verona, but I know you've spent a lot of time in Italy lately and need to be home with Tracie.

    Next year sounds great!

  3. Tom, It might be Cantine Lunae's first bottling of Vermentino Nero...but it is certainly not the first one ever produced in Liguria.

    Azienda Agricola (=indicating estate bottled wine) Podere Scurtarola has been making Vermentino Nero for many, many years and most producers in Liguria will credit Pierpaolo Lorieri as the one who saved this varietal from extinction.

  4. James:

    Thanks for your comment. If anyone would know about this, it would be you!

    Are they or anyone else pouring Vermentino Nero at the fair?

    Hopefully, I'll see you there.

  5. By the way, you normally can find this producer together with 'Az. Agr. Il Monticello' (Liguria) in the Tuscan pavilion. Podere Scurtarola is technically located in Tuscany but the Ligurian/Tuscan "border" zig-zags through most of the vineyards in that part of the region.

  6. It's my 15th Vinitaly and I had half forgotten what is so amazing about being a visitor (rather than an estate pouring) to this incredible event. I will make sure to try the Vermentino Nero... I have nothing quite so exciting to offer but if you happen to be in the Tuscany tent, we will be pouring on Friday morning in B6, substand 44. I've been enjoying your work for years, it would be lovely to meet you in person.

  7. I think Franciacorta has its place in between Prosecco and Champagne, but that's it an uncomplicated sparkler that should drink well.

  8. I'll post soon on Franciacorta. The best examples I tasted at VinItaly are definitely worth comparison with the finest Champagnes.