You can’t write about what’s new at Vinitaly, held each year in Verona, without mention of the fair’s recent overhaul from a somewhat discordant mélange of trade-focused industry professionals and fun-loving consumers into a more serious, international wine business platform.
While it was always billed as a trade show, the reality was that the event used to host a mixed bag of what were non-trade revelers (some replete with baby carriages) alongside business-minded trade attendees. To remedy the congested hallways inside the show’s crowded pavilions, and to up the professional vibe, organizers have made drastic changes in the last two editions. Ticket prices increased from €50 to €80 and each ticket is good for one entrance only, meaning if you leave, you—or someone else—can not get back into the fair that day.
For consumers, “Vinitaly and the City,” a series of tasting venues set up in the heart of Verona, has created a festive atmosphere for wine lovers while deftly freeing up the fairgrounds for a trade-only focus. And new this year, Vinitaly and the City, which attracted 35,000 attendees, expanded into the lakeside town of Bardolino. Thanks to these measures, Vinitaly 2017 was more effective than ever.
Regardless of who’s attending, one of the most important functions of Vinitaly is to gauge what’s hot in Italian wine. Here’s my summary of trends you’ll be seeing this year.
A Focus on Education
Vinitaly 2017 highlighted wine education, with more Master Classes than past years. Subjects covered everything from famous denominations to more obscure areas (including my own class on Lessona and Costa della Sesia) to little-known grape varieties. The classes mirrored the growing presence of wine courses that are sprouting up in cities across the U.S. Producers and their consorzios are organizing seminars and classes in addition to traditional walk-around tastings as a more holistic approach to promote their wines.
White Wines Made With Native Grapes
Interest in these wines continues to rise, as evidenced by the number of events on Italian whites. These included the popular “Vernaccia di San Gimignano: Wine and Territory” and “The Great White Wines of Campania” classes I led at the fair.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano, with its delicate aromas, precise fruit, savory saline finish and impressive longevity, is a world away from the more expressive white wines that boast heady aromas and tropical fruit sensations (like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigios from warmer climates).
Whites from Campania (Fiano, Greco and Falanghina) are rocking the Italian wine scene, thanks to their fruity purity, mineral-driven sensations derived from volcanic soils, crisp acidity and restrained alcohol.
“These days it’s hard to find whites from northern Italy with as much fresh acidity as we have in Campania’s whites,” says Pierpaolo Sirch, agronomist, enologist and CEO of Feudi di San Gregorio.
Nebbiolo, the noble grape behind Barolo and Barbaresco, continues its meteoric rise in popularity. That’s measured not only by offerings from the Langhe, but also from other denominations, including the Lessona area of Alto Piemonte.
Once one of the most celebrated viticulture areas in Italy, the region is undergoing a renaissance, and is producing dazzling wines that boast elegance and longevity. An extraordinary Lessona 1921 from Tenuta Sella, still vibrant and showing notes of asphalt and candied citrus zest, drove home the denomination’s astounding longevity.
Women In The Wine Industry
In the mid-1990s it was rare to find a woman running an Italian winery. Today, however, women are routinely taking over family firms or investing in new estates. Our “Women of Brunello” event, in collaboration with Vinitaly, highlighted the trend. We invited six female producers from Montalcino (Castello Banfi’s Cristina Mariani May, Marilisa Allegrini of San Polo, Donatella Cinelli Colombini of Casato Prime Donne, Laura Brunelli of Gianni Brunelli, Caterina Carli of Il Colle and Claudia Padelletti of Padelletti) to share their experiences.
“After working with my family in Montalcino for years, I started my own firm 20 years ago,” said Cinelli Colombini during the event. “Starting from scratch, I called the local enological school in Siena and asked for the names of their graduating enologists that I could contact about working for me. I was told there was a years-long waiting list. I called back and asked if there were any female students, and was given a long list of graduating female enologists that no one wanted to hire. And I realized the huge inequality within the industry.”
It was at that moment that Cinelli Colombini, who is also the President of Italy’s Donne del Vino Association, decided to hire just women in her winery. She adds, “We receive great scores from all the leading critics, and we are all women. It’s a great satisfaction.”