Last year the capable, Leah Bickford, approached me to let me know she was ready to up the ante and start sourcing wine for the store. We both knew our Italian wine selection needed to be refreshed, so we agreed that she would be in charge of sourcing wines from Italy.
It had been almost ten years since I last traveled to Italy to source wines. There were numerous reasons why I gave up the ghost, but after listening to Leah talk about her journey through Italy’s wine regions and the delicious wines she tasted, there was no way she was going to tackle Italy alone again! Besides the countries wine offerings are far too vast for one person alone, right?
So off we went with Jon Ellison in tow. We started our adventure at Vinitaly, and I was quickly reminded why I had passed the torch to my younger, more resilient team! So for all of you that wish to visit Vinitaly, here are a few tips to remember.
1. Don’t forget to pack your cattle prong
This would surely assist to move along the throngs of people that gather in doorways and aisles, to talk, text, and walk at a snail’s pace, literally stopping people in their tracks. Surely there can’t be any harm in a gentle electric prodding to get them going…
2. Bring a water gun
This trusty tool will save your life! Just a couple of sprays to put out the continuous cloud of cigarette smoke wafting in from the never ending social gatherings outside the door. However, I will admit that it has marginally improved from the days when smoking was permitted inside the tasting room.
3. Dedicate two days solely to professionals
There are simply too many goof balls hanging out with their buddies who own wineries, taking up space. If you are serious about sourcing new wines, confirm a strategic plan before entering the building. I might also add that this is another situation where the cattle prong will come in handy!
4. Don’t expect everything to run smoothly
Although all shuttle buses display line up numbers in their windows, drivers were never provided with directions on where they were supposed to stop. Even the locals found this confusing!
One of the most important reasons I stopped attending Vinitaly was the lack of respect for their indigenous varietals. In the past there were a lot winemakers fascinated with blending in chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon just to appease international palates. Sangiovese was laced with merlot or cabernet sauvignon. White wines were barrel fermented, barrel aged, and underwent full malolactic fermentations. To translate what this means, there was so much ketchup on the burger that you could not taste the meat. It also seemed as though they had forgotten about the other indigenous varieties like Pecorino, Fallanghina, Greco, Grechetto and Verdechio.
I am glad to report that their acid trip is over. I tasted many fresh, clean, well made wines, which I found very exciting. I highly recommend trying cool climate cabernets from the north of Italy, they are sure to amaze you. White varietals from the same area will leave you wondering why you are tasting these for the first time.
All in all our experience at Vinitaly was a success, so we decided to celebrate at one of the great wine bars in Verona, Bottega Vini. This wine bar is a veritable hub of activity, and is filled with the who’s who in the wine business. Getting a table during Vinitaly is impossible! See for yourself…
ISOLE E OLENA
Before we left Italy we had to make one more stop at Isole e Olena, one of the best places in Tuscany. My opinion may be a wee bit biased, as I have known Paolo, Marta, and their two children, Luca & Stefano for over 20 years. It was approaching 15 years since I last visited his winery, which has changed dramatically. Paolo’s dream and visions of making Isole one of Tuscany’s greatest estates is now only a few short steps away.
One of Paolo’s latest projects is setting aside a special allotment of Ceparello each year, much like the Bordelaise do, for a future release. In a few years he will release vertical six packs of Ceparello, and you can be assured that I will be fighting my way to be first in line.
Another project of Paolo’s is ensuring the authenticity of the wine. With the abundance of counterfeit wine on the market today, he believes there needs to be an extra step taken to ensure the provenance of his wines, and will see to it that this happens.
If you ever get the chance to visit Tuscany, take a drive to Isole e Olena, you will not be disappointed. Visitors are welcome, but it is best to call ahead to make an appointment.
So my friends I leave you with this, if you are interested in receiving some information about these wines drop us a line at 604-684-0445, or send us an email email@example.com. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters to ensure you know about our latest releases.