I'm always nervous day one. Don't ask me why, must be the anticipation....of seeing my producers...of trying to speak some form of intelligible Italian...of not wasting time and of wanting to find some new and exciting wines.
There is a huge crowd at the front gate of the convention centre...and a lot of jostling for position to be first in. Not sure why, this is the first day of a 4 day marathon....but there you go...human nature I suppose.
As I have mentioned before, this is wine on a grand scale. Eleven pavilions over 100,000m2 of space, 4500 producers, probably 35,000 wines. It's big. And you can wander around in awe and find no good reason to stop and try any wine. I know that is difficult to comprehend, but it is true.
Best first move I have found is to greet my producer clients. It is always fantastic to see them and the easiest entry point to the wine tasting part for me is to try their new vintages first and see what is coming down the pipe. There is good news today with some award winners and loads of quality in the new offerings. I can't stress how important it is to review these wines before buying. Every vintage of every wine is different and I must choose correctly or lose credibility. I have refused to import vintages of certain wines because I don't like them. Like a person, a wine must protect its reputation. It takes a long time to gain a reputation and a short time to lose it.
The most important job of the day is to buy a ticket for the Regione Abruzzo lunch. I stumbled across it at my first VinItaly and it was the best. Different pasta every day with a glass of wine or two for €10. This year a small plate of wonderful pasta and a porchetta panini, with two glasses of wine. I skip the wine...there is no shortage......but the pasta was wonderful and the porchetta out of this world. Job done!
The couple that got me into this caper, Monia and Franco from Il Palagio, have skipped VinItaly this year. Too chaotic and too many drunks ( God help them if they ever come to Australia). Instead they are at an organic wine festival in nearby Vicenza and have urged me to come visit. I go. Catch the fast train to Vicenza and upon consulting Google maps while hurtling along discover that I have gone straight past the venue, Villa Favorita, at 200km/h. It takes me 25 minutes in the train to get to Vicenza, and then 25 mins (and €40) to go back to where Villa Favorita actually is. Nice work Craig.
Villa Favorita was a stunning venue. A wonderful 500m driveway of pencil pines leads up to the villa perched on top of a small but steep hill with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Inside was all goth and medieval and quite stunning. I met with Monia and Franco and then tried to get around the 150 producers....it WAS pure chaos...scores of people at each table...loud and nowhere to perch and write. Thankfully there is a trade tasting room where I could look at as many wines as I liked in relative peace. As you expect at an organic tasting, there was a lot of rubbish and the odd gem. Organic winemakers can serve up oxidised, stalky, green, unbalanced over tannic and awkward wines at any time. And this show was no different. What also struck me was that the packaging was largely amateurish and not appealing. All in all an expensive and unrewarding side trip ....but as always the experience added to the rich texture of life (deep).
I head back to Verona, have a great meal but get stung by the restaurant no having a wine by the glass under €30....gelato on the way home .....stumble into bed. Day one down...3 to come!