Our excursion to VinItaly has long passed. It was a great experience but upon returning to Bra we were back in full swing with school and I never seemed to find the time to write about it. I thought that I wouldn’t as so much time had passed but it keeps popping up in my mind.
VinItaly is a 3 day exhibition of Italy’s wines in a huge setting in the beautiful and historic city of Verona.
This year there were about 158,000 people who attended and about a third of them were international visitors. There are producer representatives from wineries from all of the regions of Italy. The setting is a lot like the Minnesota State Fair but without the rides and ripoff games. The grounds holds many pavilions and each was dedicated to one or two wine regions of Italy. Each pavilion was packed with “booths” (some quite large) of producers. There are hundreds of producers there with samples of their wines and most often regional food that pairs with those wines.
The University was able to obtain complementary admission tickets for many of us students to attend. Several of the University staff met us there and divided us up to “tour” VinItaly. I was trying to imagine how one could even begin to explore all of the wine producers there or even all of the regions and my mind just shut down. It was really overwhelming. Fortunately having the guidance and contacts of our University staff made this impossible situation into a wonderful experience.
We spent the entire afternoon visiting only 4 or so producers. The producers we visited were personally known by our guide and we were given the royal treatment. The first booth we visited, Fattoria di Poggio Foco (http://www.poggiofoco.com/) literally cleared out some other guests that were there so that we could have a place to sit. This family owned an island off of the Tuscan shore (Capraia island which they tried to maintain in as natural a state as possible. They grow grapes there and also raised some cattle but shared the space with wild boar and other native species of plants and animals. Their grapes were grown without chemicals and the wines we tasted were excellent. The owner played around with wines a little and we tried a white wine made from sangiovese grapes, a red wine grape, which was quite good and “different.” While we tasted some of their wines we were served many different bites of food from that area to go with the wine and the owner told stories and showed us some movies and before we knew it we had been there a couple of hours. The wines we tried were from La Piana (http://www.lapianacapraia.it/). It was a pleasant and very educational experience.
We also visited a Emilia-Romagna booth (more on the Romagna side, we were told) that appeared to be a collaborative effort. There was a winery, Altavita (http://www.altavita-wine.com/cgi-bin/aziendasel.asp?menu=6)
but also there was a parmigiano reggiano producer and another that made salumi. We sampled the wines and tasted how the wines went with the parmigiano and the salumi and listened to stories about the way they produce the wine and food products. As I was stealling the last piece of mortadella I realized that we had been at this booth about another hour and a half. By the way, this was only the second time I had tried mortadella and it was incredibly good! They sliced it paper thin on an interesting looking (and very expensive, we were told, machine) and served it in piles on a plate. Mortadella, if you haven’t had it, looks a bit like oversized bologna that you get in the States, only with pieces of fat scattered through it as well as being flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg, coriander and other things. The taste of this mortadella was heavenly. It wasn’t at all greasy or fatty in texture or taste, though it had obvious fat in it. The company that made it was Negrini Salumi (http://www.bonfattisalumi.com/). We also tried some excellent wines made by Cá di Sopra (http://www.cadisopra.com/home%20inglese.htm). They also made us try some grappa and other fruit licores that they made including one that they hadn’t put on the market yet. Another wonderfuly pleasant experience.
We visited a both that was staffed by a former University of Gastronomy student who after graduating returned to her family’s wine, cheese and olive oil business in Tuscany. Her name was Sibilla Gelpke and their business is Fattoria Corzano e Paterno near Firenze (Florence) (http://corzanoepaterno.com/). She was very hospitable and we enjoyed several wines and got to taste some great olive oil there.
Our visit to VinItaly was an extraordinary treat. If we had gone on our own we probably would have tasted more wines (a LOT more!) but we would have missed out on the stories of these people who are so passionate about the products they produce and in preserving the land, species and techniques that they work on and with. We would not have had that experience without the contacts that the staff at the University of Gastronomy have and their taking the time to introduce us to their friends in the business. That is certainly one of the great things about being in this program.