VERONA – With a rush, VinItaly arrived, flourished and left. In its wake are memories of great wines and some so-so wines, wonderful people (and at times too many not-so-wonderful people) and the serendipity of enjoying yourself even more that you expected.
Great wines? Almost too many to remember but here goes a shot at recalling a few: Susanna Crociani’s delightful and quite drinkable Riserva 2010 Vino Nobile de Montepulciano; Graziano Merotto’s Cuvee del Fondatore Prosecco DOCG (tre bicchieri from Gambero Rosso four years running, even though Merotto isn’t one to shout about it); Antonio Bonottto’s Raboso del Piave; Ornella Molon’s Raboso and her 2009 Merlot from 15-year old vines in Piave; Luigi Peruzetto of Casa Roma and his 2009 Malanotte, 100-percent Raboso with 15 percent of passito; Cinzia Canzian of Alice and her A Fondo Prosecco DOCG.
And many more (Ambra Teraboschi at Ca’ Lojera, Bortolomiol, Cantina Salute, Nani Rizzi, most of Franciacorta, Sorrella Branca), many of which we will discuss as the month continues. Special thanks to Silvia Loriga, the knowledgeable and extremely hospitable Event Manager for the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Sylvia walked me through a mini-history of the wine and its makers and showed me how the wine comes alive in different ways in the hands of different winemakers.
Not surprisingly there were some of the usual frustrations with the crowded VinItaly scene but this year some of those frustrations boiled over and made it into print, at least cyber-print on the Internet. Alfonso Cevola (Italian Wine Guy) had some scathing remarks and his years of VinItaly experience and vast knowledge of the Italian wine scene certainly make him someone whose opinions and comments should be honored.
And yes, the Wifi was bad, the crowds were full of young (under 25) drunks staggering around at closing time and a couple of winemakers complained about the general lack of manners. But there also were many delightful and cordial winemakers and their supporters who were willing to answer my questions, not laugh too hard at my stumbling Italian and make sure this VinItaly was a unforgettable as the previous seven.
Next time I promise to focus on the wines. But where do I start???
There really is nothing quite like VinItaly 2015, which is a blessing and a curse. It would be great (or groovy, as Dr. J would say, over @dobianchi) if there were more opportunities where states and countries brought together their best wineries and winemakers for an intense show-and-tell weekend.
But it’s a blessing they don’t – not sure I could survive more than one VinItaly or ProWein (the German version) per every 6 months.
- Today was Day 2, and my friend and ad man numero uno Patrick Casely and his talented and lovely wife Gloria Giovara let me tag along as they made the rounds of every wine region at the fair. There were many highlights, not the least of which were Patrick and Gloria and the patient winemakers and helpers who gave this visitor leeway in the foreign language area.
– Morisfarms and its delicious “Morellino di Scansano” Riserva. 90% Sangiovese, 10 each Cab Sauv and Merlot; ripe, spicy, dark red fruits, well-made and perfect balance. Only 16,000 bottles, get your order in soon.
About the name, which sounds like a corn field in Iowa: the founders of Morisfarms (originally Moorish invaders) came to Maremma from Spain more than 200 years ago and turned the undeveloped land into an extensive operation which continues to be family operated.
Verona – VinItaly came early this years, and while rain isn’t unexpected during this spring four-day gathering, the transition from late winter to early spring weather seems a bit cooler than normal.
That’s certainly not a complaint, since it’s always a thrill to arrive in this bustling north-Italy city, to see the coliseum and Castel Vecchio and stumble on fine restaurants hidden down narrow cobbly streets.
However, a comment on the weather is a suitable way to start as one of the laments heard from winemakers in northern Italy is that last year was one of the wettest vintages in memory, with rain until late August.
The sun returned in late summer but didn’t leave some winemakers with enough time to have their grapes reach the desired level of ripeness.
On the morning of Day 1 I first made a quick run through the Franciacorta region, which is one of my favorite places to start this fair, and several people remarked how their 2014 wines were a little “sharper” than normal, even in their young state.
That gave a bit more acidity to the wines, a characteristic I found pleasing and certainly makes the wines more food-friendly. Apparently a lot of people agree; by mid-morning this always popular area had people three and four deep at some of the booths.
Another oft-heard remark was the early start to VinItaly (last year’s fair was two weeks later) gave winemakers a short time between finishing and bottling their wines for presentation here in Verona.
“It’s a little young” or “It’s not ready ” was heard at many booths although there was no lack of enthusiasm for the wines from either winemakers or fairgoers.
My first day normally is a whirlwind as I get my bearings and seek out old friends and try their latest vintages. As customary, I spent most of the day on sparkling wines, from the metodo classico of Franciacorta to the tre bicchiere Prosecci of Graziano Merotto in Valdobbiadene.
I also stopped to see Ambra Tiraboschi from Ca’Lojera in Lugana, of whom I’ll write more after my visit there Saturday.
And that’s enough from Day One.
As do most people with a computer that’s turned on more than a few hours a day, I collect a lot of emails from people I don’t know.
There are bankers from Nigeria seeking my account number, lonely widows from Siberia pleading for a plane ticket to the United States, even some bookies from everywhere promising me the win of a lifetime if I only send them my Social Security number.
But I also get some emails from places and people I can’t wait to meet.
Wineries and public relations people from Italy to California send me greetings and news about the latest releases, and sometimes the FedEx guy shows up at the office with an unexpected bottle of wine. Sweet!
Mostly, though, it’s news about the wine biz, and one recent email reminded me how much I miss on the national scene by living in fly-over country.
Earlier this month, Raymond Vineyards of St. Helena, California, deep in the heart of the Napa Valley wine country, hosted Marnie Old, author, sommelier and all-around terrific wine personality, for a one-day book-signing. I couldn’t make the signing but the notice reminded me of how much I enjoy listening to Marnie Old talk about wine.
I’ve seen and listened to Old several times at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen (yes, she’s scheduled to return this year) and to me she is one of the most-talented, bouyant and unpretentious wine talkers you’ll listen to.
Her latest book is titled “Wine: A Tasting Course” and subtitled “A Class in Every Glass” (DK Penguin Random House, 2013, $25 hardcover, $15.99 ebook, 2013, 256 pages.) Old’s premise is that the best way to learn about wine is by tasting it and in this book she takes you on a visual tour of the world’s wine styles while challenging wine myths and standard orthodoxies.
The book is organized by wine styles and flavors, not grape varieties, which allows readers to learn by what’s pleasing to their palate.
This is a “learn at your own pace” book and as I moved through the book I found myself jumping ahead to future chapters with appealing topics and subjects.
The chapters cover most of the expected and necessary wine-basic topics, such as identifying wine smells and tastes, interpreting the confusing world of wine labels, proper storing and pouring of wine and more.
But Old, who formerly was director of wine studies for the well-known French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, also delves ably into the deeper stuff, such as interpreting wine styles, finding the styles that resonate with you and even tackling the daunting subject of the world’s major wine regions (alas, Colorado isn’t among those on the list).
Reading this book is almost as much fun as meeting Marnie Old in person. This may not be the only wine book you’ll ever need, but if it’s the only one you have, you won’t be sorry.