Ever been to Vinitaly or did you go this year? It’s supposedly the world’s largest wine fair held annually in Verona. I’m not sure if it is actually the largest wine fair in the world, as Prowein also claims this title, but nonetheless it’s a mega wine show. Vinitaly is held at a convention center just 10ish minutes from the historical center of Verona and has numerous pavilions dedicated to various wine regions. Map required as it’s easy to get lost!
I had been to Vinitaly some 5 years ago but had only gone for the day and had a pretty crappy experience. I had spent years writing it off as a result. But my 5 year boycott came to an end (or maybe selective amnesia kicked in) and I decided to go this year. So much had changed over 5 years: I developed as a writer and food & wine professional. Plus, I recently obtained that shiny new sommelier certificate- better keep new knowledge fresh with Vinitaly!
One of the criticisms I often hear about Vinitaly is it is too big or industrial. I’d like to address these impressions.
When I was learning and studying during my somm course, I learned about wines I never saw on menus but were extremely intriguing. In Florence, wine menus tend to be very local and dominated by what is produced in Tuscany. You’ll find some wines from around the boot but not a huge selection.
I wanted to know what Vernaccia di Oristano from Sardegna tasted like because it was considered a dessert wine but suggested to pair with salty bottarga, or Lacrima Morra d’Alba because this is one of the red wines which can pair with fish apparently. Vinitaly gives you the opportunity to taste wines you wouldn’t normally see on menus in your town in Italy, and for sure abroad. They have an international wine pavillion which introduces visitors to unsung wine regions like Brazil and the Ukraine and of course includes wines from its birthplace: Georgia.
I admit I didn’t have enough time to visit the international wine section, but I will make it a point next year. This year I wanted to exercise my Italian somm knowledge (you’d be amazed how it’s like a language and if not used you’ll forget).
Vinitaly also hosts organized guided tastings organized by theme, i.e. Italian Roses from Indigenous grapes, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano over 35 years by various producers (I tasted a 35 year old aged Vino Nobile from Boscarelli- yowzer talk about chocolate in a glass!), vertical tastings of specific producers like Masi, women volcanic wine makers, natural wine tastings, etc. I learned so much in these tastings and they are also held in English.
Vinitaly houses a decent section for independent wine producers. So yes while there are big names and industrial producers which dominate (and ultimately finance) the fair, doesn’t mean this is all which is available. For those who work in the food & wine industry, either as a blogger, guide, editor, sales, educator, somm, waiter, server, what have you- Vinitaly is extremely valuable.
I immensely enjoyed the fair even if my propensity is towards tiny, independent salt of the earth wine makers. They were there, too!
If you are a wine lover and enthusiast with no involvement in the industry, this event has plenty to offer you too. I think for those who have no contacts in the industry and just want to go and taste wine, should put a little bit of planning in. Otherwise it seems like an overwhelming luna park of wine- which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
While Vinitaly’s next edition is a year away, it doesn’t hurt to start planning now. In fact, it is encouraged to start planning especially for accommodation a year out!
Here are my suggestions for planning a visit to Vinitaly:
- Plan accommodation as far in advance as possible- at least 6 months prior. Stay in the city center- it’s adorable!
- Same thing for restaurant bookings- make sure you book at the best spots plenty in advance- thousands of people come to this event and they want to eat well like you.
- Check our Archivio if you’re tired of wine during the day, it’s a rad craft cocktail lounge which is fairly priced
- Be prepared to walk a lot so consider that when packing shoes, etc
- Check the event website and try to sign up for the organized tastings- they are so worth it!
- If you are general public and have no idea which wineries or regions to check out, make a sommelier friend or a friend who works in wine. See if they can consult a list of wineries or geographical sections to check out according to your interests- I do not think the whole wandering around aimlessly is a good use of time unless you’re in a specific area like the independent wine maker pavilion or etna section. Or if you are a novice, let your wine pal know which regions you’re interested in and have them suggest which wineries to go seek out.
- Bring a packed lunch and snacks because the food which is sold at the fair/expo center is garbage and makes costco hot dogs look good.
These were more wine highlights during the fair- keep a look out for them on a wine list or shop!
Tocai aka Friulano, full, elegant, apple fresh and white flowery. Perfect with San Daniele prosciutto or Spring sipping
Okay this looks murky but I swear these black squid ink gnocchi were light, pillowy in a fragrant balanced broth and delicious, from Pescheria Masenini which you must dine at when in Verona for seafood lovers.
Minerally fresh volcanic Sicilian wine from Tenuta Fessina in Etna
Sicilian Moscato with extended maceration (a fermentation technique where the grape skins sit on the juice and so compounds from the skin like tannin and phenols are extracted to complicate flavor, color and body) resulting a complex, waxy orange-like aromatic dry wine from Noto in Sicily (land of almonds)
Of course Alice’s juicy, sapid earth Etna Bianco fermented with indigenous yeast (100% Carricante)
I’m now in love with Timorasso from Piedmont- this is a big white with gorgeous palate cleansing acidity packed with white fleshy fruit and a citrus and orange blossom honied almond, saline-rich floral persistence, if you close your eyes you it has enough structure to make you think it’s a red.
tasting Vino Nobile di Montepulciano over 35 years starting with this pour from Boscarelli
Hubb hubba chocolate tobacco dried prune and mega earth
Teeny tiny biodynamic winemaker near Lucca, Tenuta di Valgiano by Laura di Collobiano. Jammy, rosy earthy stuff
Another teeny tiny producer near Lucca (Tuscany) but in the wild Garfagnana doing superb biodynamic, natural wines (some from old vines) who crush by foot. Sangio, Syrah, Trebb Vermentino, the usual Tuscan suspects.
Loved Ferlat’s aromatic juicy wines (sauv blanc, tocai and pinot grigio) from the North in Cormons of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Panizzi’s treats this Vernaccia di San Gimignano with a long maceration on grape skins and barrel & bottle age-ing resulting in bold, full wine with characteristics of an orange wine.
You can visit by paying a day or multi-entrance pass (80 per day or 145eu for 4 entrances) and the fair is located about 15 minutes by bus from the city center and there are loads of shuttle “navetta” which take you to and from the center and the train station.
I’ll let you figure out the rest:)
Are you a Vinitaly regular or went this year? Any impressions on how its changed over the years or fav picks from the fair you’d care to share?
In your vino trust,