I attended Vinitaly 2011 in Verona this year, staying for four of the five days. The big surprise of the show for me was how exclusively Italian it is – with almost no presence of international producers. This was not a disappointment though as I wanted to focus on Italy anyway, especially on tasting wines from regions outside the big three (the Piedmont, Veneto and Tuscany). By focusing on ‘lesser known’ regions, I hoped to do with wine tasting what I try to do as a tourist when sightseeing- get off the beaten track. Often, that’s where the real gems and undiscovered treasures are.
Despite the traffic in Verona and the parking situation (which were both nightmares) I managed to get to the show for each of the first three days. On the fourth day, I attended a sideshow in Trentino (called the Summa 2011) which is hosted at the Alois Lageder’s estate in Magre.
The following article, which I wrote in Verona during Vinitaly, originally appeared on the Sommelier India blog here:
The 45th edition of Vinitaly, one of the longest running international wine exhibitions, concluded in Verona, Italy, on Monday April 11th. Vinitaly is different from the other big trade exhibitions (Prowein, London International Wine Fair, Vinexpo) in that it is not international in its exhibitor profile and is dedicated almost exclusively to Italian wines. The exhibition already set records midway, with over a 100,000 visitors recorded in the first three days.
The crowds were evident everywhere – in the exhibition halls and outside. While cars jostled for space on roads and in parking lots, inside people milled around the halls – tasting, chatting, doing business and, often, just making merry. “Vinitaly is for fun”, as one Canadian visitor announced.
For me Vinitaly was an excellent opportunity to get off the beaten track and try Italian wines which are not well known in India, or even in any other countries besides Italy. Italy is often associated with its red wines – the Barolos, Chiantis, Super Tuscans and Amarones. However, it does have plenty of exciting whites (and I’m not referring to Pinot Grigio). This is where I decided to start my tasting. Campania offered excellent whites from Fiano, Falanghina and Greco di Tufo. Full-bodied, balanced and often with a savoury edge not common in the ‘international’ varieties, these wines were a refreshing change from the usual run of Chardonnays and Sauvignons. From Sardinia (and occasionally from the coastal areas of Tuscany) came very interesting wines from the Vermentino grape – with the grassy-green Sauvignon Blanc character tinged with a tangy, savoury edge that makes these the perfect wines for seafood.
Staying off the beaten track for reds, the stand-outs in my opinion were ‘Aglianico’ based wines from Campania (especially Taurasi DOCG), Negroamoro and Primitivo from Puglia. Aglianico is used to produce serious red wines – blackberry and violet scented, with concentration and a firm tannic structure. Negroamoro and Primitivo from Puglia based wines were more plump and fruity, with especially the delicious Negroamoro having a silky softness. The reds from Puglia will definitely find appeal with the Indian palate and a good match with some Indian cuisine, so I hope to see more of them in India in the future.
Having enjoyed the lesser known Italian varieties, I then veered back to the familiar terrain of Tuscany, the Piedmont and Veneto. The Consortium of Chianti Classico producers (Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico) provided the excellent opportunity to taste all their top wines at one stand. ‘Taste Italy’, a collection of over 100 selected wines from Italy in one room provided the opportunity of a quick tour of wines from around Italy. The usual stars of Italy – the Brarolos and Brunellos were obviously well represented with the challenge being for the visitor to prioritise, navigate and taste. Each day ended in the same way: with palate fatigue and delight in equal measure!
A large proportion of international visitors (over 40% of the total) from around 100 countries is testimony to the popularity of Italian wine around the world. Interest in selling to India is strong among Italian producers across the board, with many actively seeking an Indian importer. The southern parts of Italy (Campania, Puglia) are excellent hunting grounds for Indian importers looking for value.