Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Wine Fair at Verona, VINITALY

We promised to refer to it in capital letters just to remind readers that VINITALY is gi-normous but we think you might have received the message. The statistics we gave last year will do for 2014 even if the fair was a bit bigger or smaller. The only obvious change was the catalogue which has been reduced from nearly 1,000 pages to 230 without apparent loss.

Last year we made the mistake of arriving unprepared. This year we set ourselves some goals and gave ourselves twice the amount of time to achieve them. The result, to borrow a recent metaphor was that whereas last year we found the haystack, this year we discovered some needles.

The topics which interested us were mainly to do with our quest for lighter red wines, one of the most difficult types to find especially in Northern climes. Our menu was as follows. An asterisk accompanies those which we were able successfully to tick off the list;

Bianco d'Alessano*
Cinque Terre
Fiano Minutolo*
Garfagnana wines
Georgian wines
Nero Buono di Cori
Piedirosso/Pere' e Palummo*
Petite Arvine
Russian wines
Uva Rara
+ any rare grape varieties we might discover along the way

As you see, there were more failures than successes and yet we were pleased to have made so many good discoveries. We hadn't reckoned with the inordinate time it would take just to find a good Bardolino or Tai Rosso for instance. That obviously left less time for other items on the agenda. Some of these could be dealt with rapidly: Torbato and Catalanesca really are made by only one producer each (Sella e Mosca and Cantina Olivella respectively) whose wines we already knew and have reported here. Or else we couldn't find a good example of what we were looking for; Malbec for example. We adore Italian Malbec or Malbech or Malbeck and ever-contrary, we think it reaches its finest expression in Italy rather than France or Argentina but on this occasion we came away empty-handed.

So in order not to appear a 'specialist in failure' here is our list of successful finds.


After searching almost without hope we came across Picchioni's lovely Bonarda - even without the help of the girl in the body stocking advertising 'The best of Oltrepo'.


As we have reported, Bardolino seems to be in crisis. So many have been fessed-up they have lost their original character. Here were two that kept the faith. One by Villabella (above)

and the other by Monteci.

The Monteci stand was nicely done, too.

Fiano Minutolo

Li Veli is a nice Puglian producer making Fiano Minutolo (always good), Verdeca and Susumaniello among others. They say Fiano Minutolo has become suddenly so popular that more is in circulation than is possible to be grown on the known acreage of Minutolo vines.

Bianco D'Alessano

Yes, there was even a Bianco D'Alessano in purezza to be found. We had enjoyed the Australian version (from Salena Estate, Riverlands - a gift from Darby Higgs) so much that we had included an Italian original on our list. If truth be told, the Aussie version was better but full marks to I Pastni for producing this example in purezza. Bianco d'Alessano likes it hot and Riverlands is hotter than Puglia it seems.


Liguria had a really smart stand complete with fantastic Sommelier who knew his stuff and was unfailingly courteous and quick off the mark even when besieged by crowds of eager tasters. He must have had experience with the interval crowd in a Theatre bar.

After quite a lot of sampling we found the perfect Rossese. This nice light one by Az. Agr. Bruna. Some Rosseses have ideas above their station. Not this one. Simplicity is sometimes the rarest attribute and should be cherished.

Tai Rosso

Another bee in our bonnet is Tai Rosso. Unsung and we think neglected, a good Tocai Rosso, sorry - Tai Rosso is a welcome addition to the small number of light red styles we patronise even if only to bring some balance with the preponderance of  heavier ones. Ian d'Agata ('Native Wine Grapes of Italy') is fascinating on the subject of whether Tai Rosso is or is not the Cannonau of Sardinia and indeed whether Cannonau is identical to Grenache. In an exhaustive analysis he concludes that "it is more correct toconsider Tocai Rosso a biotype of Cannonau, since it has adapted over the decades to a completely different environment (Veneto instead of Sardinia)."


One of our greatest pleasures in recent years has been to extricate Frappato from Cerasuolo di Vittoria (where it is blended with the darker Nero d'Avola) and concentrate on the lighter examples. This leads to what is to our mind the perfect expression of  this variety and further swells the ranks of lighter reds. We had discovered Santa Tresa a few years ago and were delighted to see this is now quite widely available. Our dicovery of the Frappati of Cantine Paolini constitute just such a moment.


We have admired Catalanesca ever since stumbling across this example in Enoteca Lucantoni in Rome. As mentioned above, Cantine Olivella are the only producers so it was a pleasure to meet the maker and taste the wine again; surely one of Italy's greatest white varieties.


Not as light as Tai Rosso or Frappato, Piedirosso nonetheless flourishes in the examples which are lighter in alcohol and this one from Ischia by Tommasone was particularly appealing.

Grauvernatsch/Schiava Grigio and Edelvernatsch/Schiava Gentile

These two Schiavas are from different grapes of the same family. Proving that what you hate might be one day what you love (whereas indifference is much more intractable) we have come to love Schiava/Vernatsch in a way we couldn't have predicted. Maybe it is just an example of that other maxim; anything is good that is done well. Whatever the case, these two Schiavas were well done and count as our final discoveries from Vinitaly 2014.

Odessky Cherny/Odessa Black

In the International pavilion we were drawn to this Ukrainian producer from the Odessa region. Vinitaly took place not long after Putin's land grab of Crimea and the good people of Koblevo were understandably apprehensive. They asked rather poignantly what we thought of the prospects for Ukrainian wine at the moment and we chose to assure them that this could me a good time for them with the spotlight on their country and maximum sympathy in the West. That was our answer. We hope it comes true.

One of the components of one of their blends was Odessky Cherny. Used as a teinturier or on its own it brings dark fruit flavours to a variety of wine styles including Sweet, Semi-Sweet and Fortified as well as Dry Table Wine. It is a crossing between Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a taste of the wine but although pleasantly drinkable it didn't have any particular character that would have led us to have an opinion about Odessa Black.

Silly season

Vinitaly has its silly side too and in town, someone from Mazzorbo seems to have persuaded some clothes boutiques to put some Dorona in the window. At nearly E.100 for a 50cl. bottle, maybe window dressing is now the main purpose of this product?

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