VERONA, ITALY —The city of Verona offered a lively late- night scene. One place in particular, Antica Bottega Del Vino, a historic and well-populated wine bar, turned out to be a constant draw on a daily basis.
The locale, tucked in a romantic alleyway, spilled with hundreds of familiar faces deep into the night. The concept is simple and a true “survival of the fittest” approach. If you manage to go into the packed-tight establishment and successfully gained the attention of one of the sommeliers, then you order as many bottles as you can and bring them outside in the alley to share freely. A one-of-a-kind party where winemakers, importers, master sommeliers and other wine aficionados shared a laugh, a hug and a great wine with each other.
After attempting to practice the old trick of restraint, we made it to bed after the first night of Vinitaly 2019.
The second day started bright and early as we attempted to beat the crowds and enter the belly of the beast as early as possible.
The first appointment brought us to Ciro Picariello, a Campania producer located in Irpinia focused of indigenous varieties like Greco de Tufo, shining with a bright and crisp tone full of citrus and stone fruit and tension.
We then payed a visit to the Musso Estate, a father and son team located in Barbaresco in Piemonte. Out of the lineup, their Pora bottling was simply incredible with a complex structure that rivals Barolo and with life for many years to come.
We then ran to taste one of my favorite producers emerging from the Friuli region North-East Italy, I Clivi.
Focusing on local grapes like Ribolla Gialla and Friulano, this producer makes a fantastic sparkling Ribolla Gialla worth sharing with friends. Zippy, cleansing, herbal and citrusy at a great value.
By then, 11 a.m., we rushed to visit a one-of-a-kind producer, Morando Family’s Montalbera Winery located in Piedmont, they produce a number of different wines including sparkling barbera done right. But the one thing that I admire them for is their dedication to sharing the Ruchè Castagnole di Monferrato wines. Ruchè has been a favorite of mine for years, a grape that offers freshness, structure and value with a exceptional pairing ability.
Eventually, we visited the Brunello di Montalcino world, a handful of iconic and sought-after producers like Valdicava whose 2013 Brunello showed power, complexity and a playful side from a fantastic vintage. We also tasted Gianni Brunelli; the Rosso di Montalcino 2017 was worth seeking and stocking, but unfortunately the production is quite small.
After a rich, powerful and oak-driven intermezzo, we headed to visit some of the young and wild producers like Tenute Dettori from Sardegna, focusing on no-intervention wines full of character and unique notes. We stopped to visit a fascinating producer with whom I wasn’t acquainted: Andrea Occhipinti makes wines like a dry white Aleatico, full of flavor and complexity based in Lazio. The Lazio-themed tasting proceeded with a fantastic terroir, driven by husband-and-wife team under the Damiano Ciolli label, focusing on the Lazio native Cesanese di Affile. Their wines are rustic, elegant and thought-evoking, made with passion and restraint.
For the last leg of the day at Vinitaly, I decided to follow my sake heart and my instinct took me there! We found a piece of Japan. A space full of diversity and excitement. A number of producers represented by a handful of importers made the pilgrimage to the romantic city of Verona to share the fruit of centuries of tradition.
Some of the exciting sakes being poured included old and great friends like Tomita Shuzo, a 450-year-old brewery located in Shiga Prefecture that produces Shichi Hon Yari “The 7 Spearman,” one that has been become one of my favorites over the years due to its complexity and nutty tones.
A brewery I was not acquainted with but sure was captivating is Arimitsu Shuzo from the southern Kochi Prefecture, creating crisp and mineral sakes excellent for an oyster party.
Who would have thought all in a day’s fun you could taste outstanding Piemontese wines, Brunellos, Campagnia whites, Cesanese and a variety of sake including new producers to follow? Cheers!