Vinitaly 2005: Verona, Italy. Final Dispatch & Biodynamic Wines.

Vinitaly is over and initial results are under scrutiny by wine industry watchers. The main topic of discussion is the large presence of international visitors this year at Vinitaly – as many as 30,000, making up 1 in 5 out of the 143,000 total visitors of this 39th edition of the exhibition. These numbers represented a growth of 12% over last year, and represented 21% of the total attendance.

Numerous exhibitors renewed relationships, others established new contacts or were able to finalize relationships set in motion from afar with international industry members. Some exhibitors reported meeting many Americans and others very few; not all companies were visited by the Germans; others had personal meetings with Russian, Chinese or Japanese visitors; while others still created no new relationships, as always happens when major changes are underway.

Emerging countries for wine consumption still seem to be ideas rather than actual markets but, on the other hand, there seems to be growing interest in wine by the countries of Northern Europe, although true wine culture still has to be established there.

Small companies were perhaps more satisfied than large ones at the end of the event, as are those who seem to have anticipated the new trends now evident among consumers, who seem by now to be interested in much more than “just wine”.

ViillaFavorita92.jpg During Vinitaly there was also a simultaneous show going on that represented an irresistible opportunity at Villa Favorita, a fascinating residence built in 1715, at only 40 km. from Verona. The occasion: a complete “winetasting path,” to understand and experience “natural wines” or, if you prefer, biodynamic wines. This exhibition is Europe’s most important biodynamic producers’ exhibition, both for the exhibitors (more than 90, complete list available here) and visitors (5,000 in 2004, 8,000 expected this year). The event is put on by Gruppo Vini Veri (“The True Wines Group”), a team of 20 Italian winemakers who share the common goals of employing biodynamic practices both in the vineyards and in the cellar, and focuses on exposing visitors to the the “terroir culture” and the ethos of biodynamic production.

I can quietly confirm the success of the show. Despite the rain and many aspersions cast from Vinitaly exhibitors who didn’t care for the implication that these were the only “true wines” the organizers did a very good job in several ways.

The wines on offer were primarily the products of (in my opinion) by French winemakers. As Vinography readers may know, French growers were the first in the world to adopt Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic approach to soils, vineyards and grape transformation processes. As a novice consumer of biodynamic wines, I focused my attention more on these French winemakers, with the hope of trying to understand some aspects of their biodynamic point of view those with more experience.

Assuming that you are quite comfortable with biodynamic principles, let’s have a look at some tasting notes:

Champagne Françoise Bedel et fils
Récoltant-manipulant (grower-manipulator) based in Croutte-sur-Marne with 7 hectares of vineyards. He produces two Champagnes, the first from Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, the second only from Chardonnay. I preferred the first. Score: 8.

Champagne Raymond Boulard
The Grand Cru Mailly-Champagne (Pinot Noir 90%, Chardonnay 10%) was excellent. Very fresh, fruity and elegant. For sure the best of the Champagne on offer. Score: 8.5.

Champagne Fleury
1996 Brut Millésimé , impressively well-balanced and fresh. Score: 8/8.5.

Domaine Marcel Deiss
A great Alsatian producer who presided over a very busy tasting table. Fortunately, I had tasted his wines recently and I remembered them very well:
– 1997 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Altemberg de Bergheim . Score: 9.
– 1997 Selection de Graines Nobles (Gewürztraminer). Score: 9.
– 2000 Gewürztraminer de Bergheim. Score: 8.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht
The great dynasty of winemakers (Léonard Humbrecht and his wife Geneviève Zind were at the show, parents of Olivier, Master of Wine, and very active as biodynamic promoter) presented a selection of 2003 vintage wines:

– 2003 Riesling “Heimbourg.” Very young but absolutely interesting, very versatile to accompany an entire meal. Score: 8.5.
– 2003 Pinot Gris “Clos Windsbuhl.” fresh and creamy, a great wine. Score: 9.5.
– 2003 Gewürztraminer “Hengst.” Flowery, slightly spicy and young. Score: 9.5.

Domaine Weinbach
Another prestigious Alsatian winemaker, but their table was so jammed I couldn’t even get close enough to taste anything.

Château La Grave, Fronsac
A “minor” Bordeaux winemaker (he makes 120 thousands bottles!) with a very nice selection of wines. No tasting notes from this one either.

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant
Nicolas Joly is considered one of most important winemakers in biodynamic field. The fame of this Loire’s winery dates back to 12th century. His 7 hectares of vineyards have been farmed biodynamically since 1980. All Joly’s wines are complex, with a lot of personality. Fantastic.

– 2002 La Coulée (Chenin Blanc). Score: 9.
– 2002 Le Savennières (Chenin Blanc). Score: 9.5.
– 2002 Le Clos de la Bergerie Savennières Roche aux Moines (Chenin Blanc). Score: 9/9.5.

La Biancara Azienda Agricola
Proprietor Angiolino Maule is the founder of the Villa Favorita show (again, many compliments). He is considered to be one of the leaders of the biodynamic movement in Italy, and his mix of charisma and passion attracts a lot of people’s attention. His farm is based not far from the Villa Favorita site. His wines were very nice. I preferred his Masieri Bianco, really a good natural wine. No tasting notes.

Camillo Donati
A young, enthusiastic biodynamic winemaker who lives and works near Parma. His 2003 Sauvignon and 2003 Barbera (Score: 8.5) were good, with a great price/quality ratio. No tasting notes.

Bartolo Mascarello
After his death in March, the operation of the ultra-traditionalist winemaker has been transferred to his daughter Maria Teresa. The 2000 Barolo didn’t impress me very much. Score: 7.5.

Other Italian winemakers that were present at the show:

Friuli Venezia Giulia

Radikon Azienda Agricola
Princic Dario
Vodopivec Paolo e Valter Azienda Agricola
La Castellada Azienda Agricola
Zidarich Benjamin Azienda Agricola

Oasi degli Angeli

Bera Vittorio e figli
Trinchero Azienda Agricola
Cascina degli Ulivi
Giuseppe Rinaldi
Cappellano Teobaldo r.

Massa Vecchia Azienda Agricola
Podere Le Boncie

Paolo Bea

Castello di Lispida
Filippi Azienda Agricola

bookstore.jpgVINITALY US TOUR
Vinitaly may be over, but there is more to come.

VeronaFiere (the group that organizes Vinitaly) plays an important role as an ambassador of Italian wine around the world with the organisation of its Vinitaly US Tour. This year, the American leg is currently scheduled for October 24 in Boston, October 26 in Chicago, and October 28 in Los Angeles.