A Few Brief Thoughts on my Week in Italy

It was an overcast morning Tuesday in Verona as I sat on a bench near the entrance to the VeronaFiere convention grounds watching the crowd swarm in. I was just within range of the wifi of the Italian Trade Agency’s (ITA) International Buyer’s Lounge, which was fortunate since the lounge was packed with a horde of espresso seeking wine buyers with nary a place to sit.

I had been a guest of the ITA for the past week which started with three days in Tuscany in the Chianti Classico appellation where we tasted dozens of this year’s best wines (more on that part of the trip soon, hopefully).

The wines, people, and views in the region were all spectacular.

One of the highlights of the trip was the visit of Monsanto’s vast cellar library which included these “traditional” bottles of Chianti which are called “fiascos.”

The vistas in the Chianti Classico Region, seem to compete with one another for most idyllic.

Our time in Verona started with the Opera Wine Tasting across from the Arena…

…and it was more than crowded.

But VinItaly is not your every day large trade tasting. To say it is on steroids is both a cliché and an understatement. At all trade tastings, each winery has their own space, a table or a booth at which they pour their wines for prospective customers, enthusiasts, and journalists. While all of that is true at VinItaly, the shape and size of said “booths” can vary dramatically and the convention center itself is not one huge hall but rather twenty huge halls.

The Masi booth seemed to cover most of a city block.

We had a tasting high above the Emilia-Romagna Hall, one of the twenty such halls.

There were about 20 other people on the trip, but I was the only journalist–the others were representatives of the trade industry from importers to distributors to buyers for retail outlets and restaurants. Those others all seemed to have an agenda for VinItaly with ideas of what they were looking for and appointments already set up.

Uh oh.

I did not have a single idea of how to approach the event much less had I set up any appointments.

My strategy all along was to wing it and there was really no time to alter that strategy.

I spent most of the week following Brian Cuddy around the event. He is the owner of The Organic Cellar, an importer/distributor in Southern California. I will hopefully have more on that soon.

Brian and I relied heavily on Franco Gabriele, a duty-free broker from Tampa (and native of Puglia) for translation and comic relief.

The event was also fantastic to catch up with several producers that I have met over the last six years:

Gorghi Tondi’s newest wines were fantastic.

I ran into Primo Franco at the Opera tasting.

Lucio Matricardi of Mezzacorona has perhaps the most infectious smile in Italy.

My first taste of Paillard’s 2002 N.P.U. will hopefully not be my last.

More to come on my trip (hopefully) soon!

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Posted in Chianti, VinItaly, Wine | 5 Comments