It’s that time of the year again…

Vinitaly comes but once a year. Thank goodness, as I wouldn’t survive it twice! A lot of people ask, what’s it all about? Well, Vinitaly is the biggest wine event in Italy, held annually in Verona and spread over 95,000 sq.m. About 150,000 people attend over five days to taste the new releases from approximately 4000 participating exhibitors.

Verona is a beautiful city, but during Vinitaly, it’s crazy. The traffic is chaotic, restaurants are jam-packed with the wine trade doing their usual schmoozing and the bars in Piazza Erbe (one of my favourite places to enjoy a drink) are pumping out tanker-loads of spritz. Strangely, after a gruelling day of tasting a myriad of wines, nothing beats standing around in the freezing cold drinking a spritz into the wee hours of the morning.

Our mission, which we’ve surrended to reluctantly, is a marathon four days of tasting every wine that we will be shipping over the next twelve months. Although I’d much rather visit each estate and walk through the vineyards, that’s become impossible given that we ship wine from fifty plus wineries from all over the country so Vinitaly is a good way for us to see everybody, consolidated over a few days. Just as important is the opportunity to keep up with what’s happening in the Italian wine scene, researching new producers and generally exploring the diversity of Italian wine.

The layout of the exhibition stands is divided by region across the sprawling buildings and some of the exhibitors stands resemble nightclubs, complete with door bitches. Others, like Banfi, build an impressive replica of their Castello and have kitchens providing plates of antipasti. For the rest of us, join the queue for panini. Days 1-3 are for the trade and, whilst crowded, is far more civilized than days 4 and 5 when the public attend. On these days it seems that everyone is trying to get their 30ml of Sassicaia, Ornellaia or anything ending with ‘aia’! I can’t look at a bottle of ‘aia’ wine these days without being reminded of Hollick’s (from Coonawarra) ridiculously named Hollaia. The world needs to be saved from wine marketing, per favore!

Like a marathon, go too hard too early and you won’t make the finish. From 10-5 we are tasting and spitting our way through (on average) 80+ wines per day and you can always tell the time of day from the tasting notes. Morning tastings might warrant two lines of my scribble, reducing to one line by early afternoon and later, just a √ or x will suffice. After a rejuvenating campari, there will be a celebratory dinner to attend and every night runs into the early hours of the morning until you ask yourself “why am I not in bed already”. Tomorrow is groundhog day.

Hard work but someones gotta do it! Follow our Vinitaly highlights here next week.