The largest gathering of Italian wine in the world—Vinitaly—took place, as it has for nearly 50 years, in Verona, Italy, April 6–9, 2014. An estimated 155,000 visitors attended this year’s fair (seemingly all of them on Sunday the 6th), tasting wine from some 4,000 producers.
A major highlight of the trade show this year was the surprise visit by Italy’s new prime minister, Matteo Renzi—apparently a first for Vinitaly. The popular Renzi, described by an Italian colleague as the “last chance” for Italy’s flagging economy, toured a few pavilions at the fair and took the opportunity to announce his goal of increasing Italian wine exports by 50 percent over the next five years, adding another 2.5 billion euros in foreign trade. One producer who happened to be on Renzi’s touring route described it as being “so crazy as he passed by—reporters were following him very closely with microphones and the crowd intense, almost like the Beatles’ first visit to the U.S.” The youngest-ever prime minister of Italy, Renzi has interests in the wine business in Tuscany and was until recently the mayor of Florence.
Additional evidence of wine’s continued importance to Italy’s culture and economy came with the announcement by Minister of Agriculture Maurizio Martina that Italian wine will be at the epicenter of the world’s fair next year, Expo 2015, in Milan. The Italian pavilion will be the entryway for all visitors to the fair, and the central part of the pavilion will be dedicated to the wines of Italy. The exhibit will be directed by Vinitaly, and the wines represented will be chosen by a committee led by Riccardo Cotarella, president of the Association of Italian Enologists (Assoenologi) and one of Italy’s most famous consulting winemakers. The expo will be held from May through October 2015.
In business development news, one of the most interesting events at Vinitaly was the declaration by the E.&J. Gallo Winery that it was creating a new entity called Lux Wines to import luxury wines into the United States. In February, Gallo emerged as the new importer for the Allegrini portfolio of wines which includes their historic offerings from the Veneto as well as Poggio al Tesoro, a luxury estate in Bolgheri. Roger Nabedian, head of Gallo’s Premium Wine Division, told a press conference at Vinitaly that his company plans to build on the Allegrini acquisition with additional important brands. Nabedian laid out a vision of a collection of a dozen high-quality brands, half of them Italian—effectively raising the Jolly Roger and putting other importers on notice that Gallo was going hunting for some other jewels beyond Allegrini.
On the wine front itself, the new vintage of 2013 whites debuted for many wineries and proved a great relief for those of us who could not wait to be done with the 2012s. In general, the 2013 growing season was “fresher” (Italian winemakerspeak for not as hot) and saw much less moisture from rain than 2012. As a result, disease pressure was lower and the day/night temperature excursions were ample—factors that contributed to the beautiful aromas and fresh acidity consumers can look forward to in the 2013 offerings.
Next year’s Vinitaly is scheduled to take place in Verona unusually early (probably to give some space between it and the Milan Expo), March 22–25, 2015. Put it on your calendar.