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Notes from Vinitaly 2017

02 May 2017

Notes from Vinitaly 2017

Vinitaly is the biggest wine fair in Italy. Lasting four days, It takes place in Verona annually in the spring. Liberty Wines attends each year, and here were our impressions of  this beautiful “Festa del vino” from 2017...

Vinitaly bring surprises for everyone, from the most seasoned fair veterans as well as new-comers. Every year the size, pace, stands, news, people, events and wines are different. Four exciting days passed very quickly, leaving us with a strong need of sleep and our notebooks full of tasting notes, Amarone wine stains and business cards.

As every year, Liberty Wines was at Vinitaly for the entire length of the wine fair with several members of the sales team and customers. Our group of 50 were divided in smaller teams, led by experienced salespeople shuttling their groups between one stand and the other. At the end of the first day, everybody realised that comfortable shoes and a lot of water were fundamental to survive the 183,000 square metres of the fair’s exhibition space.

As tiring as it can be, attending the fair is important and like viewing a crystal ball for upcoming Italian wine market trends. Here are a few we observed:

Sparkling wines are a big part of Italian winemaking: every region and every denomination tends to have one. The Italian love for bubbles doesn’t stop at Prosecco, and Italian sparkling wines have also enraptured the UK market, whose consumers and restauranteurs are eager to explore this category beyond the well-known Prosecco.

Anselmo Chiarli from Villa Cialdini focuses on Pignoletto, a local grape variety from Emilia Romagna with a very similar profile to Prosecco, but a stronger pear, apple and floral aroma. On the other side of the style spectrum, the growing interest for traditional method Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blends from Italy was evidenced in the constantly crowded Bellavista stand. The new release of their Non Vintage Alma Gran Cuvée highlighted their quality-driven winemaking.

We also noticed two trends in the outlook for Pinot Grigio – there is a desire to branch out from it, but also a view towards focussing on premiumisation. A growing interest in alternative aromatic white varieties from Italy bring to light “hidden gems” that can be seen as alternatives to the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio: Timorasso (the new Gran Fostó from Coppi shows the intensity this grape can reach), Trebbiano di Lugana and Verdicchio, along with Greco (A Mano Bianco being one of the favourite among many in our group) and Fiano. At the same time we enjoyed tasting the premium Pinot Grigio from Friuli and Trentino: Livio Felluga, Franz Haas, Lorenzon and Specogna produce extremely concentrated and expressive wines from this varietal.

The interest in native varieties is still very strong among international buyers. The Frappato from Donnafugata (coming to our portfolio soon) is a real treat for the palate, it is delicate and aromatic, and similar to the equally intriguing Lacrima di Morro d’Alba from Belisario in the Marche. Nero di Troia from Farnese’s Cantina di Diomede is still now one of the most successful wines introduced in our portfolio.

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Classic premium styles also showed well. Dennis Sunjic, London Sales Manager, says that the 2013 Barolos as the highlights of the fair: “Massolino 2013 was very impressive, so complex and elegant. I will invest in some as well!”.

David Gleave MW, after a meeting with Giovanni Manetti, adds that “the 2014 vintage of Fontodi’s Vigna del Sorbo and Flaccianello della Pieve are showing great, despite the challenging weather in summer. If you worked well in the vineyard and arrived at the end of August with healthy grapes, you will have made a good wine because the weather in September and October was excellent.”

The trip was also an occasion to visit producers and spend some time with the winemakers. As a customer said, “[these visits] were a highlight. Loved getting in to the Allegrini and Pieropan vineyards,. It makes you realise how special they are and get a much better “feel” for the wines and the regions.”

The group spent an evening with the Pieropan family, learning about the Amarone production methods at their winery in Valpolicella, visiting their scenic vineyards in Soave, and being inspired by Andrea Pieropan’s plans for their future winery just outside the medieval walls of the village of Soave. The beautiful cellar underneath Villa Cipolla in Valpolicella is a great example of how we can wisely use what nature freely gifts us. Our group was surprised to hear that the very low temperature wasn’t due to an AC system, but to the gravel being directly in contact with the open soil.

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A quick bus trip from Valpolicella brought us to the beautiful village of Soave, where Pieropan still have their family winery for the production of their Soave wines. Here we had the chance to taste these wines – that are all certified Organic from 2015 vintage – with the whole Pieropan family. The occasion was even more special as we celebrated Nino’s 50th vintage.

We ended our trip in grande stile – the extraordinary XVI century Villa della Torre welcomed our group for Allegrini’s yearly gala party on Tuesday night. Allegrini’s amazing wine range, skilfully paired with the three-Michelin starred catering of Da Vittorio restaurant, opened the event, which continued with live opera singers, fireworks and music until late into the evening.

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All the Italian producers will tell you this: Prowein is business, Vinitaly is a party. And it is true, Vinitaly is not just a simple celebration of Italian winemaking; it is a celebration of the Italian love for the wine world.