Vinitaly—one of the world’s largest wine fairs—celebrated its 50th anniversary last week, and the event set a new standard for what is Italy’s most important wine event.
In the past, one of the biggest complaints for exhibitors and attendees alike was the number of fair-goers who—besides their very obvious love of wine—had no real connection to the wine world. Billed as a fair exclusively for the trade, past editions proved to be a challenge for importers, sommeliers, buyers and journalists who had to maneuver around loud, jovial groups of drinkers and a shocking number of baby carriages.
This year, the number of attendees was sharply up, but the vast majority of those entering were from the trade. So what changed? For starters, the fair organizers substantially raised ticket prices this year, with a daily entrance pass costing €80, up from the €50 of recent editions. Another stroke of genius that kept wine lovers happy but away from the show was a series of events titled, Vinitaly and the City. Attracting 29,000 visitors, the series showcased wine tastings, concerts, guided city tours and other happenings held in the historic center of Verona, a few miles away from Vinitaly. Producers were thrilled with the results.
“In my opinion Vinitaly 2016 was the best ever,” said Tuscan wine producer Donatella Cinelli Colombini, owner of the firm of the same name. “An enormous number of foreign trade people attended, many more than in past editions.” She continued, “We already had a full agenda, but even more trade operators than we expected came to the show. Five days later, we’re still receiving importers here are in our cellars, all of whom attended Vinitaly.”
The fair, which ran from April 10–13, closed with 130,000 professional visitors from 140 countries, and 4,100 exhibitors from 30 countries housed in a record-breaking 100,000 square meters of exhibition space. Foreign attendance accounted for nearly 50,000 people, 28,000 of which were accredited buyers. Reflecting the strong interest in Italian wines in the US, the amount of US buyers increased by 25% over last year’s Vinitaly.
The 2016 show confirmed recent trends, including massive interest in sparkling wines, with extremely long lines at Trentodoc, Franciacorta and Prosecco Superiore stands. The fair also highlighted the importance of organic wine production, with a large crowd flowing through the Vinitalybio exhibition space, which also boasted a ”Bio” wine bar offering certified organic wines from producers who were exhibiting in other halls. Artisanal, terroir-driven wines were also trending, with the ViVit (Vigne Vignaioli Terroir) and FIVI (Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti) areas both packed. “It’s only our second year here at Vinitaly, and already we have more than doubled the amount of exhibitors, from 56 last year to over 120 this year,” said Andrea Pieropan, of the famed Soave house, whose father Leonildo co-founded FIVI in 2008.
The 51st edition of Vinitaly will take place in Verona April 9–12, 2017.