Vinitaly: A Lone Wine Blogger’s Novice Navigation of 128,000 people, 4,000 exhibitors, 400 seminars and the quest for a story

After our trip to the Trento DOC region, I had some quality bus time with Gioia Morena Gatti, the Head of the Food and Wine Section for the ICE-Italian Trade Promotion Agency.  The agency is a government organization that promotes Italian companies globally in conjunction with the Ministry of Economic Development and provides ground cover and support to Italian companies looking to expand internationally in 86 cities around the world.  Keep your eyes open for a big focus on U.S. consumers showcasing Italian wines.  While the U.S. is the biggest market for Italian exports, increasing that market share, especially against French wines, is a key focus.

 A Group of Strangers Who Quickly Became Longtime Friends

 

 

Ornellaia Estate Director Axel Heinz and me

Finally, we arrived in Verona and were ready to begin our Opera Wine Experience.  Veronafiere, Vinitaly and the Wine Spectator host an exclusive invitation only “OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers” event showcasing the best of the best Italian wines.  This was the sixth annual event and focused on the best wines presented by the 100 greatest Italian producers selected by “Wine Spectator.”  It was quite the adventure and copious amounts of Italian high-end dream wines were freely poured and talked about by the estate owners and winemakers.  Each room was segmented by region and you either had to have an advance game plan (note to self) or you found yourself glomming on to others that were not “experiencing their first rodeo.”

And now to Vinitaly, I’ll have some follow-up stories on the wineries that I met and a fraction of the wines that I got to taste in next week’s blog.  As a technology marketing gal, I am no stranger to large trade shows and earned my stripes at the Consumer Electronics Show, the National Retail Foundation Show, the Mobile Congress Show, etc.  I have balanced a box of 50 press kits on my head walking for miles to a booth because it was a union town (Las Vegas) and my client didn’t have union folks on call.  I’ve danced well into the late hours in a club with the Samsung dancers who were hired to drive traffic to the booth.  I’ve been in massive two-story booths where I’ve been involved with the biggest client meetings trying to get a deal done.  What I haven’t done is to be on the other side as a journalist trying to make sense of it all with copious amounts of wine.

Let me put this into perspective for you.  According to Vinitaly, the show netted out like this:

  • 128,000 visitors from 142 countries.
  • 30,000 international wine buyers, up 8% on 2016.
  • The show attracted 4,270 exhibiting companies from 30 countries, up 4%.
  • There were also a series of 400 seminars and debates looking at issues such as increased US protectionism and the implications of Brexit.
  • There were also key business deals done including China’s 1919 distribution business signing a deal with the Vinitaly International Academy to increase Italian wine sales in China by more than 2 million bottles by 2020, worth €68 million euros.

And you can’t throw a huge show like this without a little controversy.  Through no fault of Vinitaly, Italian police removed wines from the Crimea region due to be exhibited by Russian companies.

Imagine trying to navigate over 4,000 exhibitors with a large percentage of them pouring multiple wines in different exhibit halls and pavilions.  Now imagine doing it for an average of eight hours (at least) a day.   Massive.  Crazy.  Incredible.  Amazing.  Overwhelming.  Awesome.  Life Experience.  The list goes on.

Vinitaly’s Stevie Kim and me

This is what we did until our last night together where we were hosted by The Italian Trade Agency, the Economic Ministry of Italy, Vinitaly and Veronafiere for a lovely dinner at the Palazzo Gran Guardia.  Also, I had the chance to see one of my favorite power CEOs, Stevie Kim, who seemed completely put together for having just pulled off such a massive event.

Our table was filled with many of my favorites from the trip and we had this amazing dinner that showcased the brilliance of Italian food.

The first course was pasta with cherry tomatoes, basil and Campania buffalo mozzarella.


The second course was risotto with Monte Veronese cheese and diced pears with a mountain butter.

We moved on to sliced beef, chicory and parmesan cheese in balsamic vinegar, Hollandaise potatoes and celeriac gratin.

And then the grand finale, a “Millefoglie Strachin”, by the renowned Pasticceria Perbellini.  No words.  One of the best desserts that I ever had and I still regret leaving two thirds of it behind.

Joe Roberts, Zoolander Style…

Vinitaly was an incredible, bucket-list experience that is so hard to describe accurately as it is the world’s largest wine trade show.  After 14 hours of sleep in 7 days, I prepared for my 3 am wakeup call (okay, you never prepare for that) for my 4 am car pickup… There’s always time for sleep on the other side…