It’s a wine lover’s Disney World where nearly all the ‘rides’ are free. The 40th edition of Vinitaly has just concluded in Verona, and some 4,200 companies involved in the world of wine were present. Until you have been there, it’s hard to imagine nearly 2.5 million square feet (80 thousand square meters) spread over 16 halls and tents devoted to wine. But it’s there. What an opportunity to walk from country to country, region to region, grape to grape, and sample them all.
Although a dramatic majority of participants was Italian, 30 countries were represented, including neighbors, such as Croatia and Slovenia; distant producers, including Chile, Australia and the USA; and even countries you don’t associate with wine, such as India.
Around 144 thousand people came through the gates over a five-day period, representing more than 100 countries. One of the first things I noticed was that the Americans (and other stranieri) were back. After the events of 9/11 nearly five years ago, thousands of orders for wine were cancelled. The industry suffered economically. Then, many areas of Italy experienced unusually hot, dry weather – especially in 2002. This meant that many well-known wines, which you would have expected to see this year, were simply not made. However, at this fair there was a real feeling of faith in the wine market and its future. Early reports indicate that American, German and British buyers were present in great numbers and there was also a strong showing from Japan and Russia. This is good news for the wine industry.
One way to sample your way across Italy was by visiting the Trendy Oggi/Big Domani (Trendy Today/Big Tomorrow) area, where fifty emerging national wineries were located. These had been chosen at Vinitaly’s request by Luca Maroni, the internationally known, Rome-based wine writer and expert. Although many were represented elsewhere at the fair, this intimate setting within the huge show was an especially pleasant way to meet wine makers and taste their production.
Italy has a long tradition of wine consortia, where producers from an area combine their grapes to make wine or make their own wines but market them together. For example, at the Chianti Classico booth, wines from 146 producers were available. Another trend is for wine makers to market their wines together, but not on a regional basis. One example is Consorzio Vintesa, whose warehouse is just outside Florence. The Consorzio includes twelve wineries in six regions from Alto Adige to Sicily. Its clients – generally restaurants – can get wines from any or all of the members with one invoice and one shipping charge.
Another changing Italian tradition is that of only having wine with food, as wine bars spring up across the county. There you can taste wines and meet friends, perhaps with snacks or with a more substantial meal. Favorites in Florence and the surrounding area include Enoteca Baldi in Panzano, Colle Bereto on Piazza Strozzi, and the Frescobaldi Wine Bar and Restaurant, just north of Piazza Signoria (and in Rome’s Fiumicino airport). Tiziana Frescobaldi, the company’s Communications Manager, mentioned they are particularly pleased that the Florence site draws both tourists and Florentines to try their range of wines.
My tasting companions noticed a real move away from the heavy oaking of recent years, especially in the white wines. Friulian winemaker Elisabetta Bortolotto Sarcinelli of Tenuta di Blasig agreed, saying that the expansion of wine bar culture is affecting production, as ‘wines that invite you to have another glass’ sell better than more complex ‘one glass wonders.’
Popular Sicilian winemaker Donnafugata has picked up on this trend. Their Sedára is a red wine made with 100% Nero d’Avolo grapes. 30% percent of the wine in each bottle of the 2004 vintage will have spent time in oak. From 2005 forward, they have decided not to use oak containers.
Instead they will showcase the fruit of the grape, believing this will produce a more elegant wine.
As everyone who attended Vinitaly reviews their notes to choose their top red, white and sparkling wine, or the best new producer, they are probably also preparing for the next big opportunity to taste lots of wine, meet wine makers and have a wonderful time in the world of wine: 27-28 May. This is Open Cantina Day across Italy, promoted by the Wine Tourism Movement.
For more info, see: www.movimentoturismovino.it