Every wine tasting event is special. The paragraphs below detail 7 tips for getting the most out of wine tasting at VinItaly.
What is VinItaly?
Each year in April, the beautiful medieval city of Verona becomes a mecca for wine students, journalists and importers. They come for VinItaly, a cornucopia of wine and food tasting events over 5 days.
What makes this wine tasting event so special? It’s open to the public. At wine tastings, you get to try an amazing array of different styles of wine at a fraction of the cost.
‘VinItaly in the City’ is just one of the events. Brightly coloured flood lights highlight the ancient walls in the evening. Food trucks and wine producers peddle their wares as musician play live in the Centro Storico of Verona.
The ‘headliner’ for VinItaly is the grand tasting at Veronafiere exhibition space, a mere 10 minutes drive from the center. Free shuttle busses bring the masses to the exhibition space and back.
Veronafiere is massive. Each building houses 1000’s of producers.
Aethetically, this is my favourite wine tasting event of the year. Milano fashion suits and funky leather dress shoes meets old world wine tradition and large round wheels of stinky cheese!
Check out the photos in this post; notice how each wine booth is independently designed. Italians use their sense of fashion and grace to turn a simple booth into a modelling runway.
You MUST go!
Since this is the only event that allows both the wine trade and the public together at the same time, it is important that you know how to look like one of the pros. So here are 7 tips to get the most out of VinItaly’s wine tastings.
7 Tips to get the most out of VinItaly’s wine tastings
This space is huge so plan ahead. Choose 6 regions of Italy you want to explore and see where they are on a map of Veronafiere. Try to spend quality time in 2 maybe 3 regions per day.
Make sure the wine regions are close to one another in the exhibition area. You can easily waste a lot of time walking back and forth across the massive exhibition space. Check out the map of Veronafiere by downloading the brochure on the VinItaly website or by clicking here.
If you are a wine buyer for a store, it’s always great when you say hello to your importers (who have also flown from all over the world to work at the event).
However, if you are not part of the wine trade, VinItaly’s website allows you to email individual producers. Give them a day when you plan on being near their section and see if you can set up an appointment or two.
Give yourself plenty of time to find their booth but don’t stay with them too long. It’s really not easy to keep a timetable since there are soo many things to do. And know this; once you sit down, you will end up spending more time than you thought and time will fly.
Don’t feel that you have to book appointments either. You WILL be invited to sit at a table for charceuterie and wine just by passing by. (This won’t happen with the top producers of Barolo or Brunello di Montalcino – you know, the most famous regions of Italy, but it will happen everywhere else!) Italians are the most welcoming culture.
For those in the wine trade, you can choose to just skip any bookings and simply text your importers when you happen to be nearby. (Importers will let you know in advance their booth numbers). They will appreciate you coming out of your way, and may provide you with immediate introductions to the best Italian producers they represent.
2. Wear comfortable yet stylish shoes!
You will behave as a kid in a candystore since seeing this much luscious Italian wine in one place is mind blowing!
So, wear comfortable shoes! You will want to explore as much of the exhibition space as possible.
Furthermore, Verona is known for their high quality shoe shops and fashionistas which means, make sure your shoes look good! A little shoe polish goes a long way to avoiding that up and down look of Italian judgement and disdain.
3. Make use of the regional bars.
Looking at the Veronafiere exhibition space (from the brochure you downloaded above), you’ll see that each building hosts 1-3 regions of Italy.
Once inside, find each individual producer by locating them on the large boardmaps at each of the main entrances.
OR you can go to one of the many ‘regional bars’ hosted by certified Italian sommeliers as in the picture below. The regional bars have a ‘wine list’ of producers and wines to sample from that region. The bars are a great way to understand a region in a limited time.
It also gives you the opportunity to rest your feet!
The sommeliers show equal support for each wine and producer so they won’t tell you what their favourite wines are. However, after a time they get to understand your tastes, and they will pull out fantastic recommendations for you.
4. Bring your own water bottle.
With all wine tastings, drinking water is important. You can buy water at Veronafiere, but it’s not always there when you need it. And you don’t want to waste too much time looking for it to buy it.
Tip #4 is the most important wine tasting tip for VinItaly.
It’s much easier to bring your own 1L water bottle and fill it up whenever you see a water fountain at the wall. Full disclosure, I’ve even filled it up in the bathroom. So save the single use plastic and bring a 1L water bottle in your bag.
Food however, is everywhere! And it IS amazing. As Italians view wine as a food, Pavillion C is completely dedicated to it. Olive oil, pasta, aged cheese, mortadella, every version of salami, you name it.
In addition to this, there are pop-up tents showcasing Italian restaurants where you can share lunch with friends over a white tablecloth.
5. Some Southern Italian regions require more patience.
Most of the pavillions are well mapped out so that finding the producer you are looking for is easy. However, when visiting Sicily, nothing seemed to match up. After finding the information booth and receiving an updated list and map of all of the producers, still nothing was where it was supposed to be. I wasted too much time searching instead of tasting.
6. Don’t expect to get anything done on Wednesday
Wednesday is the last day of VinItaly and most of the producers are gone by 11 am. If they are still there, they are packing up. Wednesday is not the most productive day for tasting.
This year, I’ll see if I can visit the German and Austrian producers on Wednesday. I’m counting on them to stay until the end! Check back at the comments after April 10th and I’ll let you know if I am right.
7. DO NOT GET DRUNK!!!
It is not appropriate to get drunk at any industry wine tasting. EVER. One of the complaints from the wine trade about VinItaly, is how some members of the public use the time to drink too much. That’s why most wine tasting events have separate tastings for the wine trade and others for the public (where the public is charged much more than the wine trade).
So don’t forget the spit part of sniff, swirl and spit.
Instead, practice the art of mindful drinking and think about what went into making this gorgeous liquid. This should be easy as the producer/ artisan is right in front of you.
Indeed, public drunkenness is completely unacceptable in Italy, overall. This holds true even where there is live music, dancing, and a free bar. Be an ambassador and respect the local culture; eat enough food and drink enough water to balance the alcohol in the wine.
If you’ve been to VinItaly and you have some insider tips on how to get the most out of the wine tasting event, please leave your comments below!
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Disclosure: Although I was not paid to write about VinItaly, I did recieve a scholarship to study with VinItaly International Academy in 2016.