Vinitaly, trade fair or festival?

The much-anticipated week of the great wine producing fair in Verona has finally arrived. The greater part of Italian producers, together with Italian and foreign operators and the passionate and curious, are headed to the beautiful city of Verona to taste the countless wines produced by Italy.  I have been participating in this fair for ten years in a row; it’s a fixed date and it can’t be missed. At this time of year, the reigning questions are, “See you at Vinitaly?” and” Are you in Vinitaly?” For around three years my response has been “no, I will not participate, maybe I will go and check it out, but just for a day though”.

Lately, it has become very unclear whether it is a fair dedicated to producers or a festival for “Sunday drinkers”.  These last have by now taken over Saturday as well, and even part of Friday.  If we identify ourselves with an importer coming from Northern Europe, the USA or Asia, who attends Vinitaly to find new commercial partners, we find ourselves up against frequent discomforts: lines and nerve-racking traffic to get to the fair, lack of public transportation and shameful parking lots, as well as slaloming through the staggering visitors who have raised their elbows just a touch too high. In saying this I mean no harm to the simplest category of consumers, they too are an important part of the world of wine. But I would like it if we could agree upon some rules, and in part for those who come to Verona for work, not the party.

We forget that the essence of the fair is doing business, taking our wines seriously among those who want to become our representatives, the true missionaries of Italian products in the world. We would do well to give them their priority.

The five days of the fair are eternal, and especially Monday, the day of rudeness, where already by twelve noon, the exhibitors have left the scene, without respect for those who paid for the very pricey ticket.

The politicians have always caught my eye at the fair. One sees a great many of them threading through the stands, with hateful electoral campaign behaviour, shaking hands left and right, as if they want to say, “hey producers, if you are here, this, too, is thanks to us”. The professionalism, the services and the management of the world of wine in Italy, in fact, live up to our obsolete political class.

There are majestic, beautiful stands, some with two floors and some with internal kitchens, ready to prepare delectable dishes for visitors, on the model of village festivals. Other stands, however, are private strongholds, and one can access them only by invitation.

In the pavilions it is easy to catch a glimpse of celebrities and athletes. Everyone wants to be there, everyone loves wine – but few try to understand it.

It is not all so negative however. If you have never been, it is certainly an experience: you can taste the wines from all of Italy and get an idea of the complexity and variety of our peninsula’s wine production.

This week I will go to France. I will betray Italy and Vinitaly to go and taste, for the first time, Bordeaux en primeur, despite which, I do intend to make an appearance in Verona, maybe as a Sunday drinker … The truth is, as much as I hate this fair, I always miss it just a little.