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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Explaining Italian red wines with ely wine bar, Dublin

Italy can be as confusing as France when it comes to knowing what you are drinking. There are over 1,000 indigenous varieties in Italy and the wines produced in the cool northern hills of the Alto-Adige are wildly different from those made in the baking heat in Puglia down south.  Although it might seem confusing trying to understand the grapes and appellations of Italy, it’s an utterly rewarding task!

Broadly speaking there are 3 characteristics found in all Italian red wines: cherry fruit, refreshing acidity and firm tannins. The reason Italian wines make such great food wines is the combination of mouth-watering acidity and firm tannins which are the ideal components when matching food with wine. Below are some of the great Italian red grapes, and if these whet your appetite, then join us at our key Italian red grapes tasting on the 28th September 2011.

Chianti, Brunello, Vino di Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano: Sangiovese is the principle grape grown in the rolling Tuscan hills. In its ubiquitous Chianti form it is both sweet and sour, with cherries, cranberries, redcurrants and hints of rosemary and thyme. Chianti at it’s best is complex and layered with both red fruit and herbs, our favourite producers include Fontodi and Isole E Olena. Brunello is the big daddy of Tuscany and must be with 100% Sangiovese, it is a rich, complex and elegant glass of wine – with a savouriness of herbs, tomatoes and hints of violets.  The 2004 and 2005 vintages have both been exceptional and it you shop around you should find great examples of these. Vino Nobile and Morellino both make great Sangiovese and represent good quality and value for money. What should you eat with Sangiovese – roast leg of lamb stuffed with garlic and rosemary. And pretty much anything with a rich to tomato sauce!

Barolo: If Tuscany is the heart of the great Italian reds, Piedmont is the soul. The wines of Barolo, in the heart of Piedmont, are often likened to Burgundian Pinot Noir for their elegance, complexity and savouriness. The grape in Barolo is Nebbiolo and its typical characteristics are very high acidity and lots of tannins with perfumed and delicate flavours of damsons, red cherries, mulberries, dried fruits and herbs.  With bottle age the tannins mature and the wine becomes very light in colour with a silky texture. Our current favourite is made by Cantina Giacomo Borgogno e Figli. It is a wine that  will make you fall in love with Italy if you have not already done so! Try with braised pheasant and red cabbage, or with some really stinky cheese!

Barbera: Also native to Piedmont is Barbera. Lighter in colour than Nebbiolo and less serious, yet it punches above its weight with those yummy cherry red fruit and earthy tones. The distinguishing characteristics are  high tangy acidity and a light colour. Very much in fashion with the Pinot Noir drinkers of the world! Barbera is grown across Piedmont with the most famous towns being Alba and Asti.  Barbera d’Alba tends to be more serious and complex than the fresh and bright Barbera d’Asti . Our current favourite is Vigne Marina Coppi’s Sant’Andrea 2008. What to eat with a glass of barbera? We’d suggest a pepperoni pizza!

Valpolicella and Amarone: From around the region of north-east Italy, in the Veronese hills, Valpolicella is made from a blend of 3 local grapes:  Corvina, Molinaro and Rondinella. In it’s most common form, Valpolicella is one of the lightest, simplest wines you can get in Italy, but these wines are certainly worth exploring. Unique to Veronese wine is a style called Amarone. Made using the best quality Valpolicella grapes and allowing them to dry out over the winter. Rather than making wine with fresh juicy grapes as normal, Amarone is made with grapes that resemble raisins. This creates serious intensity and body as well as wines that are high in both alcohol and natural sugars, with delicious flavours of dried figs, prunes, cherries, spice and herbs. There is another process unqiue to Verona, the ‘ripasso method’ wines are made by fermenting standard Valpolicella on the skins of grapes used to make Amarone and are often referred to as baby Amarone. Fancy a truly great Valpolicella, try Allegrini’s Palazzo della Torre, a single vineyard Ripasso method Valpolicella. Try this and you’ll never look back!

Negroamaro: Never heard of it? Bet you’ve tasted it before! Negroamaro is one of the grapes in Salice Salentino, from Puglia in Italy’s heel. It is perfumed, earthy and quite robust – especially if it is going to withstand the baking heat of Southern Italy! If you are looking for great value for  money the wines of Southern Italy are the perfect place to shop. Other local varieties include Primitivo and Malvasia Nero. As cliche as it sounds, the best dish to have with this is pasta salsiccia, pasta with spicy sausage!

Contact wineclub@elywinebar.com for more information or to reserve your ticket at one of our wine nights!

*** UPCOMING EVENTS 2012***

7th December: Sweet, Stickie and Fortified Tasting
19th January: Bordeaux
26th January: Great Whiskeys of the World
2nd February: Chateauneuf du Pape
16th February: Southern France
22nd February: Italy

 

Wednesday night at ely winebar, Dublin, is wine tasting night!

Our Autumn wine tastings schedule:

28th September: Key Italian Red Grapes (€35 per head)
5th October: The Wines of Alsace (€35 per head)
12th October: Cabernet Sauvignon – Bordeaux vs the World (€40 per head)
19th October: Spain (€35 per head)
26th October: Great Christmas reds (€40 per head)
9th November: Great Christmas Whites and Sparklers (€40 per head)

Each week we’ll taste a selection of wines from the given theme and serve a supper dish to match the wines. All tastings are held at ely wine bar, 22 Ely Place and start at 6.45 sharp. To make your reservation please contact wineclub@elywinebar.com or call 01 676 8986.

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