Cerea is (for Italy) a rather nondescript town south of Verona. It has its attractive parts but mostly it is, well nondescript. It doesn't lie in a vine-growing area. It is best known for Rice and reproduction furniture. In the centre of town is a large former industrial building where chemicals (phosphates) were produced up to the 1960s - now an exhibition hall.
Presumably its availability at the same time as VINITALY (so big it requires capital letters) recommends it to those organising the 11th Vini Veri (2014) "vino secondo natura", to showcase natural wines even though there is a rival fair nearby at Villa Favorita and an entire section of VINITALY devoted to natural wine: Vinitalybio (small enough to have some lower case letters, see). Indeed it was possible for some exhibitors to show at both Vini Veri and VINITALY, running no doubt from one to the other.
We attended all three events and all were successful with no lack of interesting exhibitors and visitors. Impressive really.
Arriving early so as to be able to visit Vinnatur that afternoon, we beat the crowds comprehensively. Even the exhibitors hadn't arrived.
That allowed us to make preparations for our visit which we have learned is crucial to navigating such events.
People soon began to wander in (you can't keep them away from a wine fair it would seem). There were plenty of familiar (to us) and celebrated names showing (oops, here comes a list);
Laurent Bannwarth (Alsace)
Domaine du Pech (Loire)
Domaine Josmeyer (Alsace)
Fabbrica di San Martino (Lucca)
Les Clos Perdus (Languedoc Roussillon)
Nikolaihof (Wachau, Austria)
Princic Dario (Friuli, Venezia, Giulia)
Ronco Severo (Friuli, Venezia, Giulia)
Skerlj (Friuli, Venezia, Giulia)
Tenute Dettori (Sardegna)
Vodopivec (Friuli, Venezia, Giulia)
Zidarich (Friuli, Venezia, Giulia)
which left plenty to discover (119 to be precise).
Our first major discovery was a wine made from Negrettino. This is nothing to do with Negrette. It is unique variety with an interesting history. Better known as Negretto, it has been at one time "the most abundantly planted variety in the province of Bologna". This information courtesy of Ian d'Agata's new book 'Native Wine Grapes of Italy' just published by University of California Press. D'Agata goes into some detail about the ups and down of Negretto/Negrettino (too intense to go into here).
The Ognibene family own Gradizzolo and were on hand to explain that they revived their plantings of Negrettino only 10 years ago and produce 10,000 bottles from 1.5 hectares. They say there are only two other producers working with Negrettino. D'Agata mentions Erioli as one of the others.
The wine justified their efforts. Delicious and worthy of the widest possible distribution. Italy seems to be able to come up with these major discoveries in an effortless way. No wonder there are three wine fairs all on top of eachother. Even if VINITALY is one of them they are probably only scratching the surface of what can be found in terms of diverse grape varieties.
The place was heaving by now but strangely there were dense crowds only at certain stands.
Champagne, wouldn't you know! in fact we had never heard of a Vin Naturel Champagne so we ascribed the scrum to the possibility that we weren't the only ones who had never come across it.
Always looking out for a good Croatina, we found this example with a name in local dialect Pasensja - Pazienza in Italian. There are many local dialects and sometimes even quite distinct languages in Italy. Some are still spoken including Albanian in Molise, German in the North of course, French in the Vallee d'Aoste, Slovenian in Friuli, Venezia, Giulia, Greek in Salento and Messina, Catalan in a corner of Sardegna etc. Sicilian, Sardinian, Neapolitan and other dialects are difficult for Italians to understand, never mind Italian-speaking foreigners. Don't forget that Caruso had to study Italian before he could study singing. Outside Lucca there are signs to a place called Gombitelli, an Isola Linguistica. Until a generation ago it was possible to hear old people speaking a sort of Swabian German from the middle ages there. So it is perhaps less surprising that every corner of Italy also has its own grapes and wine.
Speaking of which we passed by a lovely Rossese from a producer called Selva Dolce from the Riviera Liguria di Ponente. Thanks to Ian d'Agata's new book we have been able to understand at last why Rossese is never cheap. Apparently it likes to grow only on certain soils on vertiginous slopes. The mountains of Liguria which descend to the sea are perfect but Rossese insists on not being too near the sea! And they call Pinot Noir fickle.
We passed by this Pignoletto Frizzante 'Sui Lieviti' (meaning sur lie). Just from the colour we could tell that we were deep in Vin Naturel territory. This one looked hard-core.
Then came another of the stand-outs of this show as far as were were concerned; a slightly pink mutation of Xarello called Xarello Vermell made by an estimable producer from Penedes, Loxarel. We really took to the people from Loxarel, not only because their airline had managed to lose their luggage, not only were they charming, not only did they pioneer this mutation of Xarello and make this delicious wine but because they have also invented a new label technology whereby you unscroll the description of the wine from the capsule. Cute!
Then suddenly there was our neighbour from our summer hols, Giuseppe Ferrua of Fabbrica San Martino himself! Normally quite reserved, his broad grin on this occasion might have had something to do with his hard work having resulted finally in getting a UK importer, the excellent Tutto Vino. We have seen his wines in the US too, at Uva in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (New York). Fabbrica San Martino is one of the finest and most interesting wines in Toscana. Certainly the best we know in the Colline Lucchese. We have listed the grapes Sr. Ferrua found growing in his vineyard before but would like to again here because he has taken care to preserve this ancient combination and make his marvellous field blend called Arcipressi from them in the proportions which he found when he acquired the 6 ha vineyard;
There is no mention of Montanina or Muscatellone in either Wine Grapes or Native Wine Grapes of Italy by the way.
Talking about interesting blends this number from Monferrato included Verdea, Bosco, Timorassa (sic) and Moscatella - not something you see every day. Bellissimo too.
Just as we thought it safe to leave there was a final discovery to be made at Dettori's stand. Dettori is a famous Sardinian producer whom we have seen at teh Real Wine Fair in London.
This 15% number was made from 100% Pascale, a grape entirely unknown to Slotovino. The wine tasted delicious and light despite its hefty Abv. It just shows and we are prepared to concede that high alcohol doesn't always show in the mouth. Just in the head the next day, unless you drink in moderation. But who could drink Dettori's Pascale Ottomarzo in moderation?