Vinitaly: another week, another mammoth wine tasting

22nd April 2016

Last week I spent three days in Verona tasting Italian wine. If I wanted to see the greatest number of our growers and producers - from all over the world - in one place I should have gone to Prowein a few weeks ago. Prowein has matchless transport links and superb Teutonic organisation. But given a choice between Dusseldorf in mid March and Verona in early April, there really is no contest. Yes, there’s a huge queue to get into the enormous halls of Veronafiere every day at 9.30 am because the Italians can’t be bothered to invest in more electronic gates; yes, there’s a frustrating wait to leave your suitcase because there are only two staff working (whilst a few metres away numerous “customer service” ladies are sitting practicing dolce far niente); and yes, it’s absurd that one of the most visited tourist spots in the city is the home, with decorative balcony and aged creeper, of Shakespeare’s wholly fictional Juliet (or rather Giulietta). But the city centre, ringed by the river Adige, surrounded by pretty hills, and with snow-covered mountains in the distance, is just so beautiful, marked in particular by a lovely pink marble. It’s not a sterile museum city either, but full of smart shops and bustling and bicycling locals. I love the way the city embraces local wine too, particularly Valpolicella and Amarone, whose bottles adorn not just food shops but boutiques, antique shops and even chemists. At the end of each working day I dined outside on fine Italian cuisine (avoiding the donkey and horse dishes which have studded Veronese menus since the locals ate them all whilst cooped up by the Austrians in one of those typically theatrical late nineteenth century sieges) and excellent local wines by the glass. Surely this is more civilised than bratwurst and lager (don’t you love national stereotyping?).

What was I doing when I wasn’t sitting in Piazza Bra watching the world go by, or admiring the balcony where Garibaldi famously declared “Rome or death!” (he has to be the greatest non-artistic Italian of the last millennium)? Well, I tasted a lot of wine. In particular I spent much of the first two days tasting Barolo – hard work as high levels of acid and tannin took their toll. But I have emerged triumphant with the wines of the Boasso family, who own vineyards in famed Serralunga. Expect those to arrive in the summer, along with terrific new vintages from our organic stars, Fiorano in the Marche and Di Filippo in Umbria. 

One last thought: until this trip I hadn’t realised quite how difficult the cold and rainy 2014 vintage was pretty much all over Italy, especially for red wine. I became slightly paranoid, imagining every 2014 wine to be dilute and weedy. Of course there are some super wines, but do be warned.

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