I can’t quite justify (yet) the flight to Verona every spring to experience the complete breadth of what Italy has to offer at THE Italian wine event: VinItaly. I love Verona, though, so one day I may just find a way over there. Lucky for me, and for the other few hundred people who joined me today, there is VinItaly USA — a smaller, traveling expo that brings 50 to 80 Italian producers to Miami and San Francisco for a trade tasting and seminars. Staged at the gorgeous Palace Hotel downtown, the event manages to feel relaxed and intimate, perhaps due to the large number of friendly Italians in the room.
Or maybe it’s just the wine.
The crowd was a mix of restaurateurs (I saw representatives from several prominent local Italian eateries as well as higher end restaurants like Rubicon) retailers, distributors, and us folks who could loosely fit under the banner of “media” including the ubiquitous and affable Wilfred Wong. The producers on offer ranged from massive to tiny, with most being medium sized family run operations, often represented by someone whose nametag matched the name on the label.
Additionally in attendance was the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Acqui – Brachetto D’Acqui, a consortium representing the majority of the producers of Brachetto in Italy (I reviewed a Brachetto here a couple of weeks ago). Most people have never heard of this varietal because it is one of the “lost wines” that wasn’t made for years until locals in the Acqui Terme region of Piemonte revived it some years ago. Now 26 small villages host nearly 100 producers ranging from tiny to small, and this consortium is reaching out to the world to tell people about this wine, a sparkling red with aromas of roses and tart blackberries that makes an excellent dessert wine or aperitif. Several examples were on offer.
In any case, I tried just about everything (over 100 wines) and I bring you the best of what was on offer below.
I was extremely disappointed with the whites on offer, finding only a couple even worth mentioning and most of those from one producer who I thought was the best at the entire event. However there are a few real gems in the red department, some of which are great values.
2002 Az. Ag. TorreFornello Pratobianco from Emilia-Romagna. 50% Malvasia Di Candia, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Chardonnay. Fabulous. Nose like a Muscat, body like a Chardonnay. Score: 9/9.5. Price: 6 Euros (not avail in US yet).
2002 Az. Ag. TorreFornello Colli Piacentini Malvasia “Donna Luigia” from Emilia-Romagna. 100% Malvasia. Score: 8.5/9. Price: 8 Euros (not avail in US yet).
2000 Bava Azienda Vitivinicola Alteserre Bianco from Monferrato DOC (Piemonte)100% Cortese. Score: 8. Price: $16-20.
2002 Casa Vincola Garofoli Spa “Podium” Verdicchio from Castelli Di Jesi. Score: 8/8.5. Price: $ ??
2001 Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio “Serpico” Red. Score: 9/9.5. Price: $70.
1998 Fratelli Bolla “Le Origini” Amarone Valpolicella. Deep amazing nose. Score: 9. Price: $40-45.
2001 Ramitello Rosso “Di Mejo Norante” Terre Degli Osci. Score: 8.5/9. Price: $ ??
2000 Albano Carrisi Platone Salento Rosso. Score: 8.5. Price: $14.
2002 Az. Ag. TorreFornello Gutturnio Superiore “Sinsal.” 45% Croatina, 55% Barbera. Score: 8.5/9. Price: 7.25 Euros.
2001 Az. Ag. TorreFornello Gutturnio Riserva “Diacono Gerardo 1028.” 40% Croatina, 60% Barbera. Score: 8.5. Price: 11.25 Euros.
(noticed a trend yet?)
2002 Az. Ag. TorreFornello Colli Piacentini Bonarda “Latitudo 45.” 45% Croatina, 55% Barbera. Score: 8/8.5. Price: $13 Euros.
2002 Principe Pallavicini “La Cavata” Red. 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet. Score: 8/8.5. Price: $ ??
2000 Fratelli Martini “Zoccolaio” Barolo. Zoccolaio means “wooden shoemaker” referencing the time period when peasants wore wooden shoes in the vineyard. Score: 8/8.5. Price: $40.
2001 Sartori Valpolicella from Verona, Veneto. Score: 8/8.5. Price: $??.
2002 Pallavicini Amarasco Cesanese. Score: 8/8.5. Price: $??.