Got back home in Tuscany from VinItaly last night. I spent a whole day in the beautiful city of Verona at what some believe is the Super Bowl of Italian wine. But the only thing the annual event has in common with the great American football event is the crowds. It’s hard to move around with so many people. The wine fair is packed with wine producers and merchants, as well as the public during the weekend. It is a nightmare. I understand why a retailer or importer might want to go to the event because they can visit so many producers in one place, but the event is poorly organized and terrible for tasting. Nearly all the wines I tasted during my visit were too warm and served in bad glasses. It was impossible to taste the wines properly, and I don’t know how any wine merchant could seriously make a buying decision on wines under those circumstances.
But they keep going and so do I. There is no alternative.
The other problem is that VinItaly has thousands of wine producers pouring. There are literally six or seven pavilions, which are the size of football fields and are filled with wine producers and their wines. Honestly, you would be hard pressed to know 20 percent of them. I continue to wonder where they sell their wines and, more importantly, who drinks them? Most are good to mediocre quality wines that must be having a hell of a time to find a consumer. But their producers continue to grow grapes and make wines every year. It’s scary.
My dinner at Bottega del Vino, a Wine Spectator Grand Award restaurant in Verona, was also up there in the scare factor. We ate some major fear factor food – lots of horsemeat dishes. I didn’t want to be rude but that’s pretty funky eats -- dried horsemeat shavings and donkey ragu with polenta. I know that’s not cool in America, but that's what they eat in Verona.
I must say that the 2003 Vietti Barbera d'Alba Scarrone Vigna Vecchia went well with the slightly decadent and bizarre horsemeat dishes. This is truly a versatile wine. Maybe I should try it with snake meat or whale sushi the next time I am in Hong Kong? Anyway, if this juicy, grapy Barbera works with such weird cuisine, it certainly can go well with a grilled steak or tomato pasta – and it does. I gave it 90 points in a recent blind tasting, and it’s worth seeking out.
Bottega is also worth a visit, even though the wine list of 2,500 selections can be very expensive. Try to stick to the wines of Veneto, or you will be killed on the price. Piedmont wines are not too bad either. During VinItaly, however, this is the place to go. And everyone shows up after his or her dinners to share bottles. I ran into James Sokolin of New York, who was touting a double magnum of 2001 Solengo (95 points). He was pouring it like a water bottle from a office dispenser! There were many happy people at Bottega that night. Sokolin’s friend from BV Wines from Lausanne was pouring a bottle of 1978 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive. Wonderful wine. 94 points.
I didn’t feel very well on Saturday morning after all the festivities! And the drive down to Tuscany in my friend’s 575 was torture, especially at 285 kilometers per hour on the A4 near Modena, the home of Ferrari. The car seemed happy to be near its birthplace. I wished I had stayed in bed.
John Peterson — LA, CA — April 10, 2006 4:06am ET
Michael — NY — April 10, 2006 4:18am ET
Jenniffer Emanuel — April 11, 2006 10:43am ET
Bernard Sun — New York, NY, USA — April 14, 2006 3:10pm ET
Chambers-chambers — April 17, 2006 7:13pm ET
James Suckling — — April 18, 2006 9:00am ET
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