Geoff’s Top Wines from Vinitaly!
Vinitaly is the most important week of the year in the Italian Wine World. It is a rite of passage for wine professionals to make the trek to Verona where everyone who is anyone descends on the Veneto for a week of tastings, galas, and late-night parties.
The size of the fair is truly awe-inspiring. As you walk around Veronafiere, where the event is held, it almost looks like a Hollywood studio with a patchwork maze of giant exhibition halls that could double as sound stages. Every region of Italy is represented, including little-known regions such as Lazio and Marche which have their own dedicated airplane-hangar size exhibition halls full of wineries pouring their wares. It is not an exaggeration to say that every major – and minor – producer in Italy is here. You could spend months at this event and still not see, taste, and smell everything. It’s almost insane to try to take it all in during the span of only three days! Nevertheless, that’s precisely what I attempted to do this year.
My first day of Vinitaly was filled with tastings of a number of great producers including Castello dei Rampolla, Pelissero, Masi and Tenuta Sette Ponti. Lunch was sublime, hosted by Tenuta San Guido where I got to sample their newest releases, Le Difese and Guidalberto from the highly-rated 2015 vintage and the brand new 2014 Sassicaia. Dinner that night was one of the true highlights of the trip: a gorgeous gala dinner hosted at the Allegrini estate just outside of town. The central courtyard of the estate was transformed into a magical garden with dozens of food and wine stations pouring incredible wines from Allegrini, Frescobaldi, Feudi di San Gregorio, Fontanafredda, and Planeta, among others. The evening concluded with a performance of classic Opera favorites and an incredible fireworks display over the vineyards.
Back in town we headed to Antica Bottega del Vino which is almost as famous as Vinitaly itself. This historic wine bar and taverna is known for its large by-the-glass selection and a truly encyclopedic wine list. You could hear the din of the crowd outside Bottega from a few blocks away. Walking up to it, I saw that there must have been a hundred people crammed into the alley outside drinking Champagne, smoking, singing and generally being rowdy – or merry, if you will. Pushing through this sea of humanity, I found my way to the door, and with the help of some friends inside, made my way into the main room. Flipping through the phonebook-sized wine list, it’s mind-boggling what they have stashed away in the cellar: verticals from every major Italian producer along with sizeable stocks from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and many other regions. We settled on a Champagne from Marie Noelle Ledru, and a few bottles from Clos Rougeard and Felsina. A few plates of Pata Negra completed our late night hangout which stretched into the wee hours of the morning.
On day two I was up early and back at the fair where I took appointments with Antinori, Duemani, Col d’Orcia, Mazzei, Planeta, Colombini, Terlano and Massolino. I also had the opportunity to taste at the Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino where I was able to sample over fifty different Brunelli, mostly new releases from the excellent 2012 vintage. This sort of tasting is invaluable in getting a lay of the land and comparing everything in one setting to select the best of the vintage.
Dinner that night was hosted by Tenuta Sette Ponti at the Michelin-starred Ristorante Perbellini just outside the city. This extraordinary event by marked by incredible food, a beautiful setting, and great wines including Saia, Crognolo and their flagship, Oreno. On the way home we stopped at Bottega del Vino again where the crowd looked almost twice the size of the night before.
The third and final day included tastings with Le Pupille, Il Maronetto, Poggio Scalete, Tua Rita, Galardi, and a few new discoveries in Zyme, who are making incredible Valpolicella and Amarone, as well as Santa Maria La Nave, who are one of the most exciting up-and-coming producers in Etna.
Vinitaly is a truly incredible experience and they have several days that are open to consumers, so even if you are not in the trade, I would wholeheartedly recommend making the trip at least once. It is a week like no other week, when an ancient city comes alive and bristles with energy, all in the pure celebration of the majesty of Italian food and wine.
By Geoff Pattison, Bordeaux Buyer at the top of the blog