Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Italian (wine) job

by Dwight Casimere

The 7th edition of Vinitaly US Tour segued into Chicago’s Intercontinental Hotel before moving on to San Francisco and New York. The cities chosen for the second stage of the 2009 edition represent a full-fledged assault on the markets that are key to the preeminence of Italian wines in the consumer market.

Last February, Dwight The Wine Doctor attended the first stage of the Vinitaly US Tour at Miami’s sumptuous Biltmore in Coral Gables and the Hilton Bentley in ultra-chic South Beach.

The Chicago event kicked off with a wide-ranging seminar coordinated by Paul Wagner, Professor of the Napa Valley Faculty of Wine Growing and Oenology and a member of the nomination committee of the Culinary Institute of America. The discussion, “Italian Wines for America Today” featured a distinguished panel including Nicola Moscardo of the Veronafiere Board, which organizes Vinitaly, the world’s largest wine fair, in Verona, Italy. Last year, Vinitaly broke all records with 4,200 exhibitors and 150,000 participants. Nearly a third of them came from North America and more than a hundred countries had representatives in attendance. Dwight The Wine Doctor was among those who opted for the cable car as a method of transportation around the massive exhibit halls, which covered four McCormick Place sized buildings spread over a hundred acre area.

“We’ve got a new generation of wine drinkers developing,” Chicago journalist, author and wine educator Tom Hyland told the capacity audience. “They’ll comprise the largest group of wine drinkers in history. We’ve got to make wine more approachable so these ‘Millennials’ aren’t afraid of wine or put off by the way we present it.

“What do American wine drinkers want?” he asked rhetorically. They certainly don’t want a lesson in chemistry. Their eyes start to glaze over when you start talking about brix and malalactic fermentation and indigenous yeast. They want to hear stories that relate the human factor. They want romance. They want to capture a place and a time and there’s no country better positioned to do that than Italy.”

At the walk around wine tasting for trade operators, importers, distributors, retailers, caterers, trendsetters and the media, the romance and legacy of Italian wines were uppermost on everyone’s mind. The Intercontinental’s catering staff provided a delicious array of Italian cheeses, sliced meats, olives and sliced mushroom and colorful sweet peppers in a light olive oil and balsamic drizzle.

Prosecco, the indigenous Italian sparking wine, garnered the most attention, with offerings from Piera Martellozzo of Friuli Venezia, Fiulia, Italy.

Export Manager Patrick Cappellini poured a delicious glass of sparkling Prosecco Spumante as he rhapsodized about the 2008 vintage.

“Prosecco is unique to Italy and unique among sparkling wines. Its light, fruity and easy to drink. That makes it extremely popular, not just in Italy, but across Europe and the United States, as well.

“Especially with the tough economic times around the world, people are looking for affordable sparking wine and Prosecco fills the bill. Its one of the greatest values out there.”

Among the truly outstanding offerings were the wines of La Togata, Brunello di Montalcino, whose 2004 vintages received ratings above 90 points in all of the major wine publications. One cannot attend a wine tasting of this magnitude and not encounter a Chianti Classico of outstanding characteristic. Dievole Chianti Classico “La Vendemmia” D.O.C.G. 2007 fulfilled all of the right flavor profiles associated with great Chiantis; rich, robust with bright fruit and a smooth, roundness in the mouth. This is the perfect wine for a terrific aged steak or a richly flavored cheese.

The wines of Sicily were represented as well and quite elegantly by Donnafugata, among the ten producers represented on the tour. The Wine Doctor visited with Giacomo Rallo and his wife Gabriella at Vinitaly in Verona earlier this year and was pleasantly reminded of the vineyards of Contessa Entellina that had been so beautifully photographed by Chicago wine photojournalist, author and lecturer Anna Pakula, who was also in attendance at the Vinitaly Chicago event.

Kalura Nero d’Avola 2007, IGT Sicilia from Cantina Birgi garnered a great deal of buzz and a lingering throng at their tasting table.

Clever use of a camera made it possible to edge into a prominent place at the tasting table for a healthy pour of the velvety rich, red gold. For more on the exciting wines of Italy, visit www.vinitaly.com,

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