The world’s biggest wine fair – Vinitaly 2012

The world’s biggest wine fair took place again in March 2012 in Verona, and just to get a feel of the sheer size of the event, I’ve included a few facts and figures.

Almost 160,000 visitors from 110 countries attended over 4 days. 4,200 exhibitors presented 20,000 wines in a convention space that covers 95,000 sq metres (that’s 24 acres!).

Visiting a wine fair like this requires preparation as 4 days won’t even get you half way around. And one must be clinical in planning, first deciding which regions to look at, followed by which wineries to visit, and, finally how much time to allocate to each. As a plan, it works in theory.

The reality however is very different. First of all, this is Italy, and things work at an Italian pace, so having plans and schedules can often just result in frustration. When you get a sense of the actual size of the place, you realize that your schedule can’t possibly work, and then you arrive at a stand to find it teeming with tasters. Finally, when you are surrounded by so many beautiful wines it’s very easy to have your head turned!

I was fortunate to have two experienced guides in Ben and Mauro. Both from Liberty wines, importers of some of the finest Italian wines on the Irish market, and both on a first name basis with every winemaker we met. Mauro, being a specialist in Italian wines, speaks the language fluently and I cannot overemphasise how much this helps!

It’s always difficult to taste wines first thing in the morning, so choosing the first visit is probably the most important decision of the day. We started with Livio Felluga. A family run winery in Colli Orientali in north eastern Italy, they produce white, red and sweet wines. Of an 8 wine tasting that included the flagship white, and multi award-winning Terre Alte, my personal favourite was the Friulano- a local variety full of delicate golden apple and floral flavours, with a fresh, crisp finish. It proved a great way to start the day! We focused on whites for the morning, and came across some really interesting and surprising wines. The 2011 Lugana from Cà dei Frati had just been bottled but was already showing like a little stunner, precise apple and pear flavours with an intense minerality. The 2010 is on the market already, and gives a good idea of how the 2011 will develop with some time in bottle.

Vinitaly Verona - Italy 2012Next up was Vie di Romans. Using both native and international varieties, they produce of some of the finest white wines I’ve tasted in Italy. Both the ‘Dessimis’ Pinot Grigio, and the ‘Piere’ Sauvignon Blanc are wonderful examples of the elegant complexity that can be achieved with these grapes in the right hands.

The big surprise for me, and certainly one of my finds of the trip was Villa Bucci. From an unassuming stand, the modest and humble Mr Bucci was showing just 2 whites and one red. Both whites were Verdicchio Classico, one Superiore, one Riserva. The Superiore was superb, lovely purity and balance. The Riserva was a revelation- from 40 year old vines, aged in large oak barrels; it was nutty, smoky intense, with a wonderfully silky texture and incredible ability to age. As if to prove the point, he opened the 2000, and the 1988. The 2000 was comparable to the finest aged Burgundies, and the 1988- at 24years old- was surely at its peak but retained a freshness to balance the richness of its years.

We ended the evening with a visit and tasting at Bellavista. To just call it a sparkling wine from Franciacorta would be to do these wines a great injustice. Meticulously crafted from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of the highest quality, fermented in both old oak and steel, and with the 2nd fermentation in bottle, these wines compare to champagne of the highest quality, yet retain a unique and distinct personality. The Cuvee Brut, vintage Gran Cuvee Brut and Gran Cuvee Saten Blanc de Blanc are amongst the most elegant and balanced sparkling wines produced anywhere. That, coming from a committed Champagne lover, is saying something.

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