Want to know how to survive Vinitaly? Whether it's your first time at Italy's largest wine trade fair or you're a seasoned expert, you've got to have a gameplan.
Gameplan. The fair is, as you have probably heard, enormous: 14–15 airport hangars full of wine. Be clear about which producers you want to visit and what wines you want to taste. Order them into their Padiglione locations so you don't end up zigzagging about... you'll be exhausted enough as is without having to backtrack. Decide on priorities: some people I know prioritize based on which producers offer the best snacks: good blue cheese here, she makes amazing cake, they have these incredible salumi...
Spit. However awkward you feel or look spitting out wine, do it. Trust me, no one watches or cares, unless you have particularly good technique and can fire wine across Verona. Most of us are dribbling into cans anyway. It's ok.
Lunch. Those dry, flavourless, filling-lacking panini typical of any type of fair are a rite of passage. I believe there may be some secret places where the food isn't horrendous, but I haven't found them. So, you must eat the poor panini. Follow up with the actually-not-bad coffee. Everyone says "no coffee when wine tasting", but frankly, in instances like these, it is a lifeline. A moment of normality in the weird indoor wine world.
Notes. Take a notepad and pen, but for me the highlighter is my top (fluorescent) tip. Sometimes things go so fast that you've only got time to write down the wine name. If you like it, highlight it: then, when rereading through your notes the next day, the wines you really liked will literally stand out, and you can look into them. Writing about "ruby cores and acid levels" isn't going to happen. Just do a bit of colouring in. N.B. Your handwriting gets very, very bad towards the end of the day.
Toothpaste. Take some. It's just too awful to leave and walk through one of Italy's most beautiful cities with teeth like Grotbags and a tongue like a Disney villain. Due to high levels of wine in your system, despite spitting it still goes in, and you find yourself smiling at everyone and everything. If you keep your mouth closed, the wine stains your lips a rather fetching plum colour that MAC would be proud of.
Shoes. Wear comfortable shoes. Do not even think about heels. Even little heels. Agony.
The loos. Be strategic, time is of the essence here. The women's loos get the worst queues ever. If you go past a ladies' loo that is quiet, just go. Even if you don't need to, go. Otherwise, again, agony.
Vinitaly is amazing though, even if nothing works out quite as you'd planned. It is so much fun, that's the biggest tip: just HAVE FUN. It's like going to a theme park as a kid, only better, with wine. There are some crazy stands: some recreate castles, others have stairs to different levels. And everywhere there is vino! Glorious.
Vinitaly 2016 takes place in Verona from April 10 to 13.