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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ely’s wine producers share their Christmas dinner suggestions

Pieropan and Mount Diffculty share their plans for the Christmas day festivities.

PIEROPAN in Soave, Veneto – from Andrea Pieropan

The Pieropan’s will be celebrating the birth of Anna, Andrea’s new baby girl and the first bambina in the Pieropan family for 100 years. Welcome Anna.

Zuppa di porri con melograni
Leek soup with pomegranate

Tortellini di Valeggio in brodo
Valeggio cheese tortellini in broth

Pasticcio di carne
Sort of meat pie

Pieropan la Rocca 1998 magnum

Arrosto di Maiale con patate al latte e radicchio di Treviso
Roast pork with Dauphinoise potatoes and Treviso radicchio

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1988

Domaine de Montille Volnay Le Mitans 1er cru 1998

Ofella di Perbellini
Typical Pandoro from Veneto

Semifreddo alle scorze d’arancia
Orange peel Semifreddo

Saracco Moscato d’Autunno 2009

Frutta di stagione mandarini, noci, pistacchi, mandorle
Seasonal fruit, mandarins, hazlenuts, pistacchios, almonds

Pieropan Recioto di Soave Le Colombare 1988

Cofffee and Grappa
Not just any coffee and grappa. Andrea says the coffee prepared by Nino is a ‘process’, beginning with the correct warming of the machine and the cups, then a mix of three different beans. And the Grappa is a special distillation of the vinacce (skins) from their Recioto di Soave.

MOUNT DIFFICULTY, Central Otago, New Zealand ~ Michael Herrick

Eating roast Turkey, & boned leg of lamb, brushed in Hoisin Sauce then Char grilled crisp & caramelised
Drinking obligatory Champagne aperitif followed by plenty of Mountt Difficulty Estate Pinot Noir 2002

More winemaker dinners to follow!

ely’s wine tips for Christmas day

The do’s and don’ts for Christmas Day Wines.

Over the last couple of weeks, people have been asking us about the best wines to have on Christmas day. ely winebar has put together a few simple suggestions to help you along.

Tip number 1 ~ Have a sherry!

Cast aside all the prejudices you may have against Sherry and revisit this absolutely delicious glass of wine. It’s the perfect wine to sip whilst you are slaving away over the dinner. Sherry labels can be unnecessarily difficult so we have listed 3 Sherry styles to make things easy.

  • Fino: is the classic sherry that is very pale in colour and quite light on the palate, it has lemony and almond notes, and is dry. This is a delicious aperitif. Fino is like any other white wine and will go off if you don’t drink it! Keep in the fridge for 4 days maximum.
  • Pedro Ximenez: at the opposite end of the spectrum to Fino is this lusciously sweet wine. It is a prune colour with aromas of dried fruit, figs and candied orange peel. Serve it slightly chilled or even poured over a scoop of ice-cream. Absolutely delicious and very moreish, a small glass of PX is the perfect end to a festive dinner.
  • Amontillado: This is an absolutely fantastic wine and completely different to anything you’ll have ever tried. Real Amontillado is aged Fino or Manzanilla, it is terracotta in colour and tastes of toasted almonds, caramel and dried citrus fruit. It can be anything from bone dry to sweet.
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Tip number 2 ~ Don’t drink your good wines on Christmas day!

It is easy to justify drinking ‘very good’ wines on Christmas day. However, the chances are that you’ll have already had a concoction of drinks whilst cooking the dinner so below are a few options for both reds and whites that should definitely fit the bill.

Southern Rhone  for spicy reds.

Wines from Southern Rhone have big juicy red fruit with layers of spice, ripe tannins and good acidity. The main grapes in Southern Rhone reds are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Grenache, the principal grape of Chateauneuf du Pape, is arguably the most important grape of the region and adds cherry fruit, white pepper and the soft tannins. Syrah has more dense aromatics and a darker colour, Mourvedre has fresh, herbaceous aromas, blackberries with hints of leather as it ages and the Cinsault produces sweet, small berries that add to the vibrant fruit character of the wine.

Southern Rhone reds include the appellations of Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Cotes du Rhone Villages such as Cairanne. ely’ s choice is any of the Domaine Alary wines that you can get your hands on.  And if you can’t? Ask you local wine merchant. They always have great suggestions!

If you prefer Aussie style reds which have more up front fruit character, why not try a ‘GSM’, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, from Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale. The Aussies do this blend extremely well and deservedly earn the accolade of being Rhone Rangers.

Northern Italy for elegant whites.

It is very easy to settle for a trusty Chablis or Sancerre, but why not try something fresh and exciting. Soave from the Veronese hills used to be known for prioritising quantity over quality, but we have found this beautiful wine from a small, family run winery in the heart of Soave town. Pieropan make a few cuvees and all are impressive. Made from a blend of Garganega and Trebbiano, Soave produces aromatic wines with great acidity. The wine is brimming with pears, peaches, citrus notes and hints of almonds. It is the perfect alternative if you like zesty fresh wines with a weighty mouthfeel.

If you prefer a bit more body in your whites why not try a Pinot Gris from New Zealand. Pinot Gris, the same grape as Pinot Grigio, has evolved into it’s own distinct style in New Zealand. Most people will be very familiar with the pronounced tropical fruit flavours of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but we think that a Pinot Gris would be a great white to have with you Christmas dinner because they tend to have been aged on their lees which adds a creamy texture to the pear, melon, and lemon zest aromas in the wine. Our current favourite is Mount Difficulty Pinot Gris from Central Otago, Southern New Zealand.

Tip number 3 ~ Drink something truly delicious and worth savouring on the St. Stephens Day!

By the 26th October, all the fuss is over and it’s time to relax and enjoy the break. Why not have a glass of  something that you have been looking forward to as much as you have been looking forward to a well earned break. Why not unwind with a with a rich oaky Chardonnay: my choice is something very special, Shaw and Smith’s M3 Chardonnay from Adelaide Hills in Australia or Craighall Chardonnay from Ata Rangi in New Zealand. ely winebar is  always blown away by the elegance and intensity that these wines display and proudly have them on our list.

Merry Christmas and drink wisely (and sensibly!).

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