"In victory you drink champagne. In defeat you need it." Napoleon Bonaparte
So this year, Jim and I packed up the little white Alfa, and along with our dog Luca, headed north to attend Vinitaly. We arrived in Sirmione, on the southern coast of Lake Garda on Sunday afternoon. We booked a hotel here, 20 minutes by train from Verona, in order to avoid the crush of the city. Sirmione, a very narrow peninsula, is a beautiful vacation destination, and we planned to enjoy it as well as the wine exposition.
In Verona there was a free shuttle from the station to Verona Fiere where the exposition takes place. But, the masses were at least 6 abreast waiting for the next shuttle bus, and in typical Italian fashion, there was no rhyme or reason to the queuing process. So, we decided to go take a taxi. In hind sight, I do not know if this was any better as we waited in line for one hour for a taxi, but at least with Luca it was not as crowded as the bus would have been. The taxi dropped us off around the corner from the entrance, and we followed the crowds to the doors where there was more waiting and more lines and more people than I have ever seen in one place other than at a Bon Jovi concert. Finally, moving along with the crush of people, we made our way through the turnstiles and into the exposition area where about 15 large warehouse type buildings advertised the regions of Italy. (It only took us two and one half hours from the time we left our hotel to get this far.) To give you a feeling for the size of this event, here are a few statistics: there is about 970,000 square feet of exhibition space which was visited by nearly 38,000 people per day for each of the four days of the event. Estimates are that visitors arrived from 140 different countries, nearly 20% of these visitors were from the US and Canada.
The Orsolani family, one of the top producers of Erbaluce, has been making wines for four generations. Massmiliano directed us to their booth to taste their 2009 Cuvee Tradizione, a methodo classico brut from the Caluso Spumante DOC. The first fermentation of this wine is done part in steel tanks and part in barrels with a second fermentation in the bottle for 60 months. In the glass, the wine is a golden yellow color with an elegant perlage. The nose is strikingly unique. Rather than the typical scent of fruits or flowers or honey or nuts, this wine smells like the earth and herbs - sage and rosemary. It reminded me of farm land and grazing goats. The taste, however, was not as unusual as the nose. Here is the taste of honey, hazelnuts, and minerals. This is a very distinctive and interesting wine with an enjoyable depth of character. It can be served throughout the meal with pastas, fish, poultry or even pork dishes. For more information on the Orsolani winery visit their website at http://www.orsolani.com/en/
After the Roero Arneis, we tasted a second distinctive wine from the Negro winery cellars, Negro Maria Elisa Rose'. A methodo classico made from the Nebbiolo grape, Maria Elisa Rose' undergoes a first fermentation for two months in barrique followed by a second fermentation in the bottle for at least 36 months. The wine is a deep rose color with the scent of roses and berries. It maintains many qualities of the Nebbiolo grape which provides a depth and balance and a rich flavor, but it is not overpowering. It is a more refined and structured than a majority of rose' wines which seem like fruit juice in comparison. This is not only a wine for aperitif. It can also be served with main dishes like pork or veal. Visit the Negro winery website at http://www.negroangelo.it/ing/vini.asp
Check back for the sparkling wines of Soave and Trentino Alto Adige in Part 2 of the Vinitaly tour - as the madness continues.