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).
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.
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.
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.
The event was also fantastic to catch up with several producers that I have met over the last six years:
- Andrea Cecchi, one of the nicest people I have ever met, whom I bumped into hustling to a tasting.
- Ivan from Gorghi Tondi, whom I met last year in Sicily.
- Francesco Bonfio, the famed wine retailer of Siena and a challenger to Mr. Cecchi as one of the nicest people I have met in Italy.
- Mezzacorona’s magnanimous winemaker Lucio Matricardi.
- Primo Franco, the head of fantastic Prosecco producer Nino Franco.
- And perhaps the biggest surprise was finding Alice Paillard of Bruno Paillard Champagne who took time out of her crazy schedule to have me taste some of the best champagnes I have had in a while.
More to come on my trip (hopefully) soon!