Sunday, March 29, 2015


Vinitaly 2014 a vintage year for the industry

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

VERONA, Italy--Vinitaly 2015 will go down in the record books as the largest in history. With more than 150,000 visitors from 140 countries. The attendance numbers were up 20 percent over last year. More than 2,600 journalists from 46 countries covered the four-day event and, thanks to an increase of 34% in investments dedicated to incoming promotions and cooperation with the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, the Italian Trade Agency-ICE and the Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies, the number of foreign buyers also increased, according to Ettore Riello, President of Veronafiere,  the exhibition site of Vinitaly.

Visitors from the Far East and Mexico also grew this year, with new entries from Africa, particularly Cameroon and Mozambique, among new guests at Vinitaly. North Africa even performed well with Egypt rebounding with a strong presence. Tunisia and Morocco also made impressive showings for both wine and food at Sol and Agrifood, the showcase for food products, olive oil and wine.

The U.S. and Canada account for 20 per cent of international visitors, but Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the German speaking countries, dominated with 25 per cent in overall attendance.  The United Kingdom took third place with 10 per cent attendance. France, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Russia rounded out the top eight positions in attendance with European Union countries Poland and Romania rounding out the top 10.

 Due to the success of business contacts made at this year's Vinitaly, many high-end private sector companies have already signed three-year renewals for upcoming editions of Vinitaly. There was a festive mood throughout the event with a revived view of optimism for the industry.

Massive pavilions occupying hundreds of square feet of floor space replicated Castellos and Villas of many wine estates. Among the most impressive was the pavilion created by the Prosecco Superiore sparkling wine producers from Conegliano Valdobbiadene, which presented more than 100 sparkling wines and a unique opportunity to taste the wines of 14 smaller producers. A series of intensive tasting seminars, such as  'The ABC of Conegliano Valdobbiadene,' a tutored  tasting and general overview and 'The Rive:expressions of the territory and its biodiversity, '  also explored the unique terroir of Prosecco Superiore and the meticulous production methods that make this one of the most delicate and flavorful sparkling wines of the world. Prosecco Superiore  is quickly gaining world dominance in this beverage sector.

Banfi presented one of the most impressive pavilions with a massive booth that replicated Castello Banfi. A commanding view of the convention floor added to the heightened sense of drama surrounding the tasting of its latest releases of high-end 'Premier Cru' level wines under the skillful tutelage of Lars Leicht, head of Banfi's Cru Artisan portfolio and Castello Banfi's Montalcino-Italia Ambassador Luciano Castiello.

Cantine Ferrari of Trentino presented its magnificent Perle sparkling wine, which  a classic example of the methodo traditionale, a complexity of taste and refinement of texture to rival that of the finest Champagne. Ferrari Chairman Matteo Lunelli and Marketing and Finance Director Alessandro Lunelli on hand to personally present this jewel of a sparkling wine.

Sicily was well represented with a dazzling array of new vintages from Donnafugata. Owner and production manager Antonio Rallo and co-owner and  Chief Operating Officer Jose Rallo and their father, Giacomo, who co-founded the winery with his wife, Gabriella, a visionary woman in the Italian wine industry, personally pouring their new releases.

Arnaldo Caprai celebrated the wines of Umbria, particularly its signature Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2010 "25 Anni" at a wine pairing lunch at Caprai's pop-up restaurant in a huge airstream ooutside the Umbria Pavilion, hosted by winemaker Marco Caprai and featuring award-winning chef and TV personality Gianfranco Vissani. A number of celebrity chefs attending Vinitaly took time from their own appearances to attend the luncheon to honor their friend and colleague. This was just one of the star-studded highlights of Vinitaly 2015 in which the real star was Italian wine itself.

Galas and lavish wine dinners filled the evening hours in villas, restaurants and castles in the misty hills above the beautiful romantic city of Verona with the bas relief of its ancient buildings casting their shadow against the darkening crimson sky of eventide.
Allegrini's Villa Della Torre estate

The dinner buffet at Villa Della Torre

Lamerto Frescobaldi of President  Marchesi De' Frescobaldi
Marilisa Allegrini with guest Giovanni Montovani, Director General of Vernafiere
Celebrity chef Gianfranco Vissani
Francesca and Alessio Planeta, owners of Planeta winery in Sicily

The nighttime view from the bridge at Villa Della Torre
Below: Leonardo Frescobaldi of Marchesi de' Frescobaldi

Below: with Lars Leicht of Cru Artisan-Banfi and Banfi co-CEO Cristina Mariani-May
The replica of Castello Banfi at Vinitaly

A festive moode prevailed at Vinitaly 2015
 Donnafugata's Jose Rallo with her father Giacomo Rallo
Below: the impressive pavilion for Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Prosecco from the Cartizze district

A view from atop the floor of Vinitaly 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015


Opera Wine: A Showcase for Italy's Finest Wines from 100 Great Producers
Presented by Wine Spectator and Vinitaly Presents

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

VERONA, Italy---Italy's wine stars were out in full force for Wine Spectator and Vinitaly Presents' Opera Wine. Now in its fourth edition, Opera Wine is a gala presentation of the top wines from 100 legendary producers as selected by Wine Spectator Magazine, the leading recognized authority on wine and Vinitaly, the world's largest festival and conference of wine. Opera Wine was the formal prelude to Vinitaly 2015, which attracted a record number of participants this year.

Producers were on hand to personally pour their elite selections, to the delight of a sellout crowd at the Palazzo Della Gran Guardia in the heart of the ancient city center of Verona, which is dominated by the massive and historic  Arena, site of this summer's annual Verona Opera Festival.

 Opera Wine's 100 Great Producers outside the Palazzo Della Guardia in Verona
 Character actors represent Verdi's  opera 'Aida,' the centerpiece production of Verona's Opera Festival
 Dwight Casimere with Marilisa Allegrini of Allegrini Wines
 The ancient Arena in the Piazza Bra of central Verona

 Marchesi de Frescobaldi President and winemaker  Lamberto Frescobaldi with the company's marketing ambassador of 20 years, Alessandro Lunardi
 Wine writer, film maker and sommelier Charlie Arturaola (r) with his winemaking friends at OperaWine
 Veronafiere, the setting for Vinitaly
 Dwight Casimere with Wine Spectator Executive Editor Tom Matthews (center)
 A face in the crowd at Vinitaly 2015  and  (Below) Cantine Ferrari Chairman Metteo Lunelli (r)

 Robin Shay, Brand Manager  to Allegrini wines
 Francesca and Alessio Planeta of Planeta wines of Sicily

 'Aida' at Opera Wine
 Two generations of Biondi-Santi wines, the inventors of modern day Brunello di Montalcino wine

Vinitaly Managing Director Stevie Kim presides over te OperaWine news conference

Among the presenters, Allegrini Azienda Agricola  of the Veneto region, Arnaldo Caprai of Umbria and Donnafugata of Sicily.

Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International moderated the news conference announcing this year's initiatives for Vinitaly 2015 which included Enolitech Expo, an on-site promotional tool devoted to the wine and oil sectors and Sol and Agrifood, a showcase for the Dairy, Snack Food and Produce industries. This year's was the 49th edition of Vinitaly with 4,000 exhibitors and 155,000 visitors, among them 56,000 guests from 120 countries. For more on Vinitaly and its international and US events, visit

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Castilla-La Mancha Wines of Spain; On Don Quixote's Grape Trail

by Dwight Casimere

Spanish wines are on the move! The Castilla-La Mancha US Tour 2015 is currently underway, and it features some fantastic wines that are value priced and taste absolutely great.  The most amazing thing about the wines is that they are all priced between $8 and $20 and have a flavor profile that would command prices more than double were they from France or Napa. The wines are all food-friendly and should be served with light appetizers or a meal as is done in their native Spain.

The first wine tasted was the most intriguing, both visually and taste-wise. Bodegas Vidal Del Saz 2014 sparkling wine is made from 100% Macabeo grapes, the signature white grape for sparkling wines in Spain. What makes this wine different is the color and presentation. This is a low alcohol wine, perfect for a light brunch or afternoon garden party. With its distinctive gold or silver color and hints of silver flecks in the bottle, it makes for a stunning presentation. The flavor notes of crisp green apples, apricol and pear and its price point at just under $20 makes it doubly appealing. Try it with a bit of Spanish Machengo cheese and ripe pears and you'll see what I mean.

Bodegas Tierras De Orgaz 2013 is 100% Chardonnay and gives the French a run for their money in this category, yet it only costs around $14. Its bright golden color gives a clear hint as to what's inside the bottle; ripe citrus and candied apple notes with a light finish, make this the perfect pairing with scallops or sushi.

Among the reds, I went straight to the big ones; Bodegas Romero De A Vila Salcedo 2008 ($20), a blend of 70% Tempranillo, the flagship red grape of Spain, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah, which gives the wine its international flair. This is a terrific wine with food. I had it with a slow-roasted London Broil, flavored with Mesquite and smoked Hungarian Paprika and healthy slices of garlic. Served with some roasted carrots and a side of broccoli and pan sauteed new potatoes, this is a meal that would have made Don Quixote give up his windmill quest for the night!
 Tom Hyland, author and photographer, who co-presented the wine tasting seminar (r) with wine producer Carlos Galdon, President Bodegas Tierras de Orgaz

 Nancy Sabatini-Wine Director, Mainstreet Wines-Countryside, Illinois

 The wines of  Castilla-La Mancha
 Tom Hyland with producer
Below: Tom Hyland leading the symposium and tasting

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Provence In The City 2015: Spring Arrives in a Bottle of Wine

Sunny, Seductive Wines Herald Beginning of Spring

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK---For just a few brief hours, frigid Manhattan was turned into a sunny Mediterranean garden as the sun streamed through the glass-enclosed terrace of  The Humphrey restaurant at the Eventi hotel in Midtown for an afternoon tasting, Provence in the City 2015, sponsored by the Provence Wine Council, representatives of France's oldest wine growing region.

"Provence is the birthplace of Rose' wine," Provence Wine Council President Jean-Jacques Breban told the gathering of wine journalists, sommeliers and trade members. "This is not the eye of some bird that you saw here in the states some years ago, but true rose' from the top AOP rose' region in France."

The wines of Provence, rose' in particular, are especially suited for spring. They are great for the Easter table because they go well with lamb or ham and seafood, chief among it,  salmon.

France is the world's largest region specializing in Appellation d'Origine Protegee (AOP) rose wines. Growth in Provence exports has been exponential, particularly in the United States where consumption has increased by double digit rates for each of the past 11 years The thirst for premium rose' wine from French soil is insatiable.

With more than a hundred wines presented by 65 producers, participants were treated to a dazzling array of not only rose' wines, but brilliantly conceived whites and reds that showed the diversity of the Provence region.

The most common rose' grapes in Provence are Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. "Provence makes the quintessential rose, which is a very pale, pink color, and very dry. But we also produce some marvelous red and white wines that are very striking in their stylistic diversity," President Breban emphasized.

For all their finesse, the wines are surprisingly affordable. Most are in the $15-$40 range, and that includes the complex and flavorful reds. The most expensive wine there was the Rouge Fazioli from Chateau La Mascaronne 2011, which clocked in at about $40. I defy you to find a red wine from Bordeaux or Napa Valley with a  comparable flavor profile for the same price!

One journalist attending the morning wine tasting symposium asked if Provence would ever produce a sweet rose' of the type recently promoted in the United States by producers seeking a younger, hipper wine drinking audience. "Never," Breban firmly stated. "We strive for 'typicity!'"
 Dwight Casimere with Jean Jacques Breban-President Directeur General Provence Wine Council
Emilie Penaranda with her Eternelle Favorite Cru Classe from Chateau de Saint Martin
Estandon 2014 from Estandon Vignerons, a delicate  blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah
 Tony "WineChef"  Lawrence   Black Enterprise  Magazine

 Frank Clemente Bello  Graziella's Restaurant GM Sommelier Brooklyn, New York
 Mariela Lucas Assistant Restaurant Manager Hakkasan New York

 George Palmieri OPICI Wines with Chateau Beaulieu

 Alain Riviere of Whispering Angel

 The Garden Terrace at The Humphrey restaurant at the Eventi hotel in Midtown Manhattan
 Winemaker Julian Faulkner (r) and his  Domaine du Grand Cros  with Brian DiMarco of Barterhouse

Chateau La Mascaronne Rouge Fazioli, a Syrah, Mouredre red blend

 Karine de Gunzburg with her Chateau la Jeannette
 Chateau Roubine Cuvee "R" (l) with Chateau L'Arnaude's Nuit Blanche (and below)

 The formal tasting symposium at Provence and the City 2015 and (below) a view of the vineyards