Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A country of contrasts

Days 2 & 3
The frenzy starts as massive traffic jams converge on the spaghetti junction of roads that lead into Vinitaly. There are about 144,000 visitors, 4200 producers over the 5 days in 16 pavilions. After slicing through the traffic with a Scottish “take no prisoners” attitude Iain turns a little native when he strategically dumps the car illegally in front of some bins at a spitting distance from the entrance – nice move.

Once through the gate we begin the frantic criss-crossing from pavilion to pavilion, region to region at 45 minute intervals, trying to keep to an impossible schedule. Current producers, partners for new vintages, new producer prospects and rising stars in the Italian wine world are on the agenda in a whirlwind of different styles, approaches, techniques and grape varieties. The noise is intense and the banter endless and to escape outside means to enter a thick cloud of toxic smoke as Italians ‘respect’ their new laws prohibiting smoking in public buildings. These, however, are minimal distractions compared to the thinly clad, long-legged signorinas smiling inanely as they ‘help’ their employers pour to bewitched potential clients.

The day ends with an exchange of who's tasted what, the heroes, the villains, the scoundrels and yes, the signorinas again. Traffic leaving the fair is as intense as upon arrival but the swearing goes up a notch - fantastic to watch but less fun to participate in.

Days 4 & 5
Italy is all about sharp contrasts from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again with no apparent rhyme nor reason. An hour’s drive from the mayhem of Vinitaly is the supreme location of one of Italy’s most selective tasting events - SUMMA - at the Alois Lageder estate in Alto Adige (see picture). Italy’s top producers congregate to show their wines at the Lowengang Estate for 2 days instead of attending Vinitaly – ostensibly a semi-protest against the appalling carnage Vinitaly offers but also a sensible option for those in search of pure quality. The snowy peaks of the dolomites provide the perfect setting in which star producers such as Luciano Sandrone, Bruno Giacosa, Ornellaia, Silvio Jermann, Roberto Anselmi, Feudi di San Gregorio, Aldo Conterno and Montevertine show their latest vintages. Norbert Niederkofler (crazy name - crazy guy!), the local Michelin starred chief, cooks lunch for guests in the remarkable surroundings of this 15th century Hapsburg pad. The Lowengang estate is also a testimony to the huge strides in quality Italy has made in the last decade or so and one cannot help but admire Alois Lageder, spiritual father of Summa.

As Vinitaly winds down, the Verona piazzas hot up but that is where we must leave it – a testament to flamboyance in the most Italian way.


At 6:58 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Nice writing dude. Sounds like a fun trip - except for VinItaly itself...


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