Verona, “The City of Love & Wine”.
From Piemonte to Veneto, from Tuscany to Puglia to Sicily. Let’s explore together what modern Italian Wines are all about!
Located in the unforgettable city of Verona in Northern Italy, in the heart of Valpolicella, Vinitaly is the biggest exhibition about wine in Italy and for sure one of the biggest in the world . Thousands of producers and distributors from all 20 regions of Italy and from all over the World present their Wines at the trade fair of Verona (Veronafiere). For Wine Lovers, this is an experience not to be missed! Prior to 2018, I had always heard of Vinitaly, but I had never experienced the wonder myself. I attended Vinitaly, in April, 2018, and and I have to admit I liked what I saw. Vinitaly is an event of international importance, and it is very big in terms of products, distributers, and actual surface area. I walked kilometers in one day from one hall to the next and It required not only a strong passion for wine, but even research , planning and money! With over 4200 vendors from all around Italy and other areas of the world, I realized I couldn’t scratch the surface of Vinitaly – above all if attending in only 1 day! I feel like I barely tried any Wines! I would have flown into a couple regions of Italian Wine, but I was able only to try only a few Wines above all from Sicily (my homeland) , the ones I had in my mind since a lot of time. Here below my tour!
Castellaro Winery, Lipari .
As fate would have it, my first stop was “Tenuta di Castellaro” Winery, Lipari,
The Estate of Castellaro has its headquarters in Quattropiani, the highest village on the island of Lipari. The owner of the estate is Massimo Lentsch, entrepreneur from Bergamo (Milan area), who fell in love with Sicily and Sicilian Wine. Massimo Lentsch was already producing wine in Dubrovnik, but after a holiday in Lipari, realized the high potential of this terroir and created this new company. The estate consists of several plots scattered all over the island of Lipari: “Vigna” “Maggiore”, “Lisca”, “Lisca Alta”, “Caolino” and “Gelso” are the main. The greater area is located in “Castellaro” and from this vineyard is after named the estate. A very important event was the meeting between Massimo Lentsch and the winemaker Salvo Foti, founder of the Consortium of Vigneri, who has put his great experience to produce wine in the Eolie islands in the service of the new winery. The goal of the Consortium of Vigneri is to produce wines of excellence, in full respect of the nature and island traditions. In 2013, after four years of work, in Lipari was inaugurated the cellar of the estate, with a solemn ceremony in which, in addition to local authorities, was attended by a delegation of Japanese operators. This is the largest winery of the Eolie Islands, modern with very low environmental impact, all geared to the natural production of wine, where the wine making process takes place by gravity, without the use of pumps, where the musts are fermented on indigenous yeasts. In volcanic soils rich in pumice and obsidian have found an exceptionally habitat grapes varieties such as Malvasia di Lipari, Carricante and Nero d’Avola, and the wines produced, almost a tribute to the nature of the soil, bear the names of stones.
Benanti Winery, Catania, Mount Etna.
It’s easy to imagine I dashed for this unique Winery at Vinitaly, that gave me the possibility to meet the producers in person. First thing, I was impressed was for their elegance: their manners, their way of thinking, their personality and their kindness to tell me the story of their family. Antonio Benanti, a charming Sicilian entrepreneur, started talking about their Top Red and White Wines. I tasted them and they are stunning. These wines are unique, because they are produced from three local noble grapes variety you cant’t find nowhere in the world: Carricante (white), Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio! They are so special, because they are located in Mount Etna that is an insane place to produce wine: volcanic soil, wildly unpredictable weather and steep slopes. This is the reason why Etna has become one of Italy’s most exciting wine regions, creating wines with intense minerality and effusive flavors. I asked Antonio the secret of their success and he answered simply : “passion, hard job and professionality”. Antonio with his brother Salvino belongs to the new generation of ambitious winemakers that are pioneering the potential’s of Etna vineyards focusing on what it does best. Twin brothers Salvino and Antonio Benanti, 42, spent their lives side by side: growing up in Sicily, studying at business school, working banking jobs in London and then returning to Sicily to take over the family winery. In 2012 their father, Giuseppe Benanti, handed them the “Benanti” Winery . Giuseppe Benanti, now 73, is a third-generation Catania pharmacist who built a successful international ophthalmological products company. In the late 1980s Giuseppe began investing in a dream of making great wines in Mount Etna reviving a family old passion with an extensive and selective study of the Etnean soils. But it was with the twins that there was a qualitative leap. In the past “Benanti” Winery had lost some of its identity, producing too many wines of varying quality. The brothers knew what they wanted to do and wasted no time: the day after Giuseppe transferred ownership to his sons, they started a revolution! The brothers sold off vineyards in southeastern Sicily along with mediocre performers on Etna, dramatically slashed the number of bottlings from more than 20 to 8, and eliminated use of international varieties. Their idea was to invest in their core wines. Those that “Benanti” Winery does best are its elegant, single-vineyard Etna flagships: including the Etna White Superiore Pietramarina 2012, made from the ancient native variety Carricante, and two reds—the Etna Rovittello 2012 and Serra della Contessa 2012 made from local grapes Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Today the “Benanti” Winery farms about 30 acres, producing close to 13,000 cases annually. Benanti Wines—which five years ago were exported only to Japan, Norway and one U.S. state—now ship to 30 countries. American distribution has expanded from New York only to 11 other states. Today Benanti is a prestigious winery and its wines are some of the most awarded in Sicily.
Fina Winery, Marsala
Fill your glass with “Kikè” (white, Traminer and Sauvignon Blanc) of “Fina” Winery once in your life ! Can you imagine ? During a starring summer evening in front of the sea, while having a cosy fish meal somewhere in the Mediterranean!
It happened to me and finally at the Vinitaly I met Bruno Fina, the gentle owner of this beautiful and modern winery in Marsala, who dedicated a little time to me for tasting his gorgeous wines. Fina’s wines are the result of a land in the territory of Marsala that is loved and fought for, they have the taste of the passion and of that grapes that have been wisely turned into wine, thanks to the dedication of the work in the vineyard. They have the familiar warmth and the experience of who has always done wine and has always know how to narrate it. This is how you transmit the hereditary character of the territory and the harmony of the men that search for excellence on a daily basis. Those are the fundamental element of Fina’s winery and for this reason Brunoconsiders his wines as part of his family. Aiming to get the best from the surrounding territory “Fina” Winery has a modern and efficient structure transferring all the passion in rational organization of spaces and processes, in the maximum respect for the integrity of the grapes.
Finally some useful Tips, if you decide to go to Vinitaly next year:
- Book Vinitaly tickets in advance on line: they were € 80 per person for a 1 day pass and €145 for all 4 days. If you are affiliated with a Wine-Related Trade (sommelier, restaurant owner, shop owner, blogger, etc.), it is possible to have a discount. If you know someone who is somehow involved in the Wine Business, they can sign up for a free entrance. The reason why Vinitaly is so expensive was because of issues with drunk people in the past. Lastly, if you are a journalist, a blogger and so on, you can request a Free 4-days Pass to Vinitaly;
- Stay Overnight in Verona: If you have the chance to stay in Verona during the festival, do it! The city comes alive with all sorts of dining and wine events. BUT make sure you make reservations for any dinners in advance, as most restaurants are sure to fill up
- Stay longer than 1 day: and figure out a plan;
- Go on One of the Last Two Days: If you have to pick a day, pick one of the last two days of the festival. By then, the crowds have died down;
- Spend time on Vinitaly’s website: that offers a plethora of useful information about the philosophy, logistics, and wineries at the festival, conducting some preliminary research for your visit;
- Get the Vinitaly App: it lists every single vendor by country, region, and type of wine. the Vinitaly App also has a map of the Event and a location capability that can help you find saved wineries once you arrive;
- If you want to get to Vinitaly consider public transport: if you’re coming from outside of Verona. I caught a train to Verona Porta Nuova (main train station), then immediately hopped on the Vinitaly free shuttle bus. It dropped us off right in front of the event, and it took only 3-4 minutes to drive. There are multiple free shuttles running all over the city. See theVinitaly website for more info;
- Go Early: plan to arrive right at 9:30 when the doors open. Your chances of peacefully enjoying some wine are much higher earlier in the day;
- Wear Comfortable Shoes: I’d recommend choosing somewhere in between from casual to formal dress , but please comfortable shoes for walking around the event itself!
- Be smart: this event is huge and there are thousands of wines you can try. You don’t have to try every single wine from every winery. Another strategy? Sip and spit. Really. You can try WAY more wine if you can manage spitting out much of the wine. That’s literally what the dump buckets are there for. No one will look at you weird!;
- Bring lots of Business Cards: If you are in a wine-related business in any way, bring lots of business cards. This event is a wonderful opportunity for networking and getting to know people;
- Food brought from home: there are multiple places you can eat at the event, that means an endless queue and an additional cost . Anyway, there are lots of cafes around the event in case you need something strong to awake your self from sleep!
Vinitaly is the Wine-Education Experience of a Life Time: You can get an amazing wine education experience at Vinitaly.