The first thing that was taught to us in my sommelier course was to go out and taste as much wines as we can to build our knowledge about them. It is not enough to sit down in our classes listening to the teachers, take down notes and study them. What matters most is to practice what we are studying. That means to analyze them by looking, smelling and tasting the wines ourselves. In short, drink as much as you can (intelligently, of course!). With the largest wine show in the world right inside Italy, it is every wine enthusiast’s key to the widest span of discovery and learning paradise. With more than 4,270 exhibitors from 30 different countries in a duration of 4 days, Vinitaly is the best place to be when you want your senses to perceive the beautiful world of Italian and international wines.
Vinitaly is an international wine exposition and competition that’s open both to the public and the wine professionals which goes on annually every April in Verona, Italy ever since 1967. The 2017 event is already the 51st edition or 50+1 edition as symbolically christened by Veronafiera. Based on the statistics, it continues to grow every year! This year’s Vinitaly attracted 128,000 visitors from 142 countries which actually grew by 8% from last year’s numbers.
Statistics showed the increase in all aspects of the 4-day event from the public attendance to the participating exhibitors and the international buyers which went up by 74% by the way. The UK, Germany, US, Canada, Japan, China, Russia, The Netherlands, Brazil and Belgium are just some of the countries that went up with the buyers. This means more good Italian wines will be flowing in a lot of countries starting this year because based on what I have tried at Vinitaly, the wines are definitely getting better and better!
Two wine producers to take note of are this year’s winners of the Vinitaly International Award. Tenuta San Leonardo from Trentino took the award for Italy where Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga and his son Anselmo produce skillful blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Merlot. Weingut Bründlmayer of Langenlois, Austria has a perfect interpretation of the territory and traditions of fine Austrian wines which are held in high regard and sought after by collectors and connoisseurs all around the world.
Everyone knows Sassicaia, the Super Tuscan wine from Bolgheri in Tuscany. Its producer, Tenuta San Guido, was given the Special Vinitaly Award for being one of the best known Italian companies in the world. Coincidentally, Sassicaia also celebrated its 50th year in a vertical tasting of its most important vintages.
But there were thousands of Italian and international wine producers to discover and revisit inside a space of more than 100,000 square meters. During the 4-day event, I spent my days visiting producers whom I was already familiar with, tasting their new vintages and meeting new wine producers, tasting more wines to keep track of. I documented every single wine I tasted with photos to share with other wine lovers. The first release of the copper-colored Pinot Grigio Ramato of brothers Cristian and Michele of Vignaioli Specogna of Friuli-Venezia Giulia made of a single grape variety from six different years is worth mentioning. As well as their award-winning Sauvignon Blanc Duality.
Collio di Poianis
From the same region comes another notable wine label, Colli di Poianis of Gabriele and Maura, producer of elegant DOC Friuli Colli Orientali white wines like Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Malvasia, Ribolla Gialla, Friulano and Chardonnay. Their Schioppettino di Prepotto is a significant wine to have for its explosion of spices, especially green pepper and blueberries that are typical of this variety. They also won the prestigious Risit d’Aur, an award given to them for planting the first few Schioppettino autochtonous vines, thus saving them extinction.
Perla del Garda
Whereas coming from the foot of Garda Lake is the wine producer Perla del Garda of siblings Giovanna and Ettore Prandini with their expressive white wines from the morainic hills. The grapes in their 30-hectare land are exclusively harvested by hand between August to November and using the gravity flow technique in their production process.
Prior to being a wine producer, Silvia Imparato was a professional photographer. Then in the mid-eighties, she started making wines along with Riccardo Catarello as the enologist. 1991 saw her first vintage of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Aglianico which she called Montevetrano. From then on, Montevetrano Winery just moved on to great successes. Located in the Campania region, just a couple of kilometers from the sea with calcareous and clayey soil, the terroir expresses very well in the wines. Silvia has a production of three kinds of wine, the Montevetrano which is now a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Aglianico; Core Red which is 100% Aglianico and Core White which is a blend of Greco and Fiano.
La Vecchia Cantina
From Albenga in Liguria, the Calleri Family of La Vecchia Cantina was present to show their sturdy and fruity Pigato wines alongside their Vermentino and Rossese.
From the region of Calabria, I found three producers from Cirò Marina for their full-bodied red wines which are mostly of the Gaglioppo grape variety. Du Cropio of Giuseppe Ippolito produces three labels with the same grape variety, an IGT Calabria Rosso (blend with Malvasia Nera and Greco Nero), a Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore (blend with Malvasia Nera) and a Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva.
Azienda Sergio Arcuri
Azienda Sergio Arcuri was started in 1880 by Peppe, the great-grandfather of brothers Sergio and Francesco Arcuri, the present proprietors of the winery. They produce Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore and Rosato with the Gaglioppo grapes.
Senatori Vini, with its continued family tradition of producing wines of notable quality from the beginning of the century in its 40 hectares of vineyards is being represented by the family’s new generation of winemakers. Most notable is their full-bodied Merlot, Unico Senator, rich in mature red fruits, notes of spices and a distinctive light aftertaste of sweetness.
From the Piedmont region near the small town of Boca which is known as one of the historical production areas of Nebbiolo (Boca DOC), Barbaglia Winery is managed by a father and daughter team, Sergio and Silvia Barbaglia. In their 4 hectares of vineyards, they produce wines that best express their unique terroir. They have a number of single varietal wines from Uva Rara, Croatina, Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Erbaluce, the area’s only white grape variety.
From its birth in 1932, after three generations, Ferrucci Winery of the Romagna region continues to produce remarkable wines with Sangiovese grapes, Centurione, Auriga and Domus Caia. For white wine, they have a delicate and refreshing Trebbiano DOC called Mattinale. Now managed by the young sisters Ilaria and Serena, daughters of Stefano Ferrucci, a prominent winemaker of the region.
Coffele Winery is a family-run winery in Soave that was founded by former headmaster Giuseppe Coffele and his wife Giovanna Visco. It is now run by Chiara Coffele who handles the commercial side while her older brother Alberto creates the wines, who, at a young age of 30 received his first major award for his Soave Classico DOC Ca’ Visco 2003 and again for the succeeding couple of years. They have a number of other excellent award-winning wines from Garganega to Chardonnay, Trebbiano di Soave, to the red varieties to Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Rocca di Principe
Just started in 2004, Rocca di Principe of the town of Lapio in the Campania region, makes excellent wines in the hands of the Ercole Zarrella, his wife Aurelia Fabrizio and his brother Antonio who came from families who dedicated their lives to grapes and wines. Most notable is their Fiano di Avellino DOCG that has a long string of awards of excellence.
The heart and soul of Favaro Winery is the whole Favaro family working together to take out the best of their wines. Benito started it in 1992 with his wife Rosanna and now his three kids Camillo, Nicola and Elena plus her partner Claudio are also taking part in the production of each bottle that comes out from their 3-hectare land. They specialize in wines made of Erbaluce, an indigenous white grape variety in the DOCG area of Calluso in the Piedmont region. Their two white wines, Erbaluce di Caluso Le Chiusure and Erbaluce di Caluso 13 Mesi are acclaimed by wine book guides.
At Feudo Montoni, wine and food intertwine each other in a lovely marriage of Sicilian flavors and aromas. Fabio Sireci, the winemaker of Feudo Montoni and the third generation of his family, creates award-winning wines (as evidenced by an extra long list of his wines’ accomplishments). His wines are all exceptional starting with the white wines of Inzolia, Catarratto and Grillo from Sicilian grape varieties, Nero Mascolese rosè wine to the full-bodied red wines from other Sicilian grape varieties, Nero d’Avola and Perricone. But Feudo Montoni doesn’t stop with wines because Fabio’s wife, Melissa Muller, was also a chef in New York before she moved to Sicily with him. She just published her book entitled Sicily (which I now have in my bookshelf) and she is also conducting cooking classes with Sicilian recipes using local ingredients.
Andrea Occhipinti of Occhipinti Winery of Gradoli in the Lazio region started making wines in 2004 after completing his thesis on the subject. His aim was to preserve and enhance the two native grapes of Gradoli which are Aleatico and Grechetto Rosso. Alter Alea is made of 100% Aleatico white grape variety while one of his reds that perked my curiosity is the Rosso Arcaico which is a blend of Aleatico and Grechetto Rosso that was refined in the terracotta amphorae for 6 months.
Briziarelli Winery has an expansive land of 50 hectares in just outside the town of Bevagna along the Strada del Sagrantino (Sagrantinto Road) in Umbria. They have a vast wine production with three lines, the Linea Fontecaime, Linea Classica and Linea Storica. They have single varietals and blends of Sagrantino, Trebbiano Spoletino, Grechetto, Sangiovese, Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.
Wines from the Etna DOC production area in Sicily are very expressive with their minerality because of the volcanic soil of Mount Etna. At Tornatore Winery, the vines are cultivated in 46 hectares of land at an elevation between 550 to 700 meters above sea level. In particular, they cultivate the native grapes specified by DOC Etna wines which are Nerello Mascelese and Nero Cappuccio for the red varieties while Carricante and Cataratto are the white varieties.
Tenuta San Francesco
When you think of the Amalfi Coast, you tend to think only about the iconic beaches and picturesque coastal view of that side of southern Italy. There is more to that because the wines along that coast of the Campania region are excellent with their minerality. One of the celebrated producers in that area is Tenuta San Francesco of the Di Palma Family. In their four hectares of centennial vineyards, they cultivate Tintore, Piederosso, Aglianico, Tintore Prefillossera, Falanghina, Biancolella, Ginestra and Pepella grape varieties. One of their most popular wines is the E’ ISS with 100% Tintore di Tramonti Prefillossera red grape variety.
Tasting wines and understanding them takes time. The best part is always when I get to learn the facets of production from the producer himself. There’s always a little story behind every vintage, how the harvest was, the hard work they had to input, the weather, the anxiety and the excitement that the producers take along with their production. And when that wine is poured in my glass, I look at it with more appreciation and respect. Wine is every passionate wine producer’s life and when he pours you that glass, he is sharing with you a part of himself.
Viale del Lavoro, 8
37135 Verona (VR), Italy