Bostoniano publishes “Vinitaly: For the Love of Wine…and Verona”

Recently, the gorgeous and informative Bostoniano magazine, which celebrates Italian culture in America and abroad, published an article that I wrote about a spectacular annual wine exhibition in Verona, Italy.  I hope this prompts you to go!

Vinitaly:  For the Love of Wine…and Verona!

by Gina Fava

          Wine aficionados know that one of the best times to travel to Italy is Fall harvest season, when ripened vineyards carpeting the countryside are bursting with bountiful production, and just-uncorked reds and whites at roadside enoteche beckon to be tasted.  But I recently discovered a different kind of wine tasting adventure, set in glorious Verona, Italy during Spring, that’s sure to please any wine lover.  “Vinitaly” gathers renowned Italian vintners eager to show off the fruits of their labor, all under one roof.  

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          Also known as the International Wine & Spirits Exhibition, Vinitaly spreads over 95,000 square meters and showcases themed tastings of more than 4000 exhibitors in various buildings dedicated to the official regions of Italy.  Just outside the stone walls of Verona’s city proper, the exhibition complex bustles with over 150,000 annual visitors per year, since 1967.  This past April, I accompanied my favorite wine expert (my husband Jamie, who’d been awarded the trip for his wine acumen by Horizon Beverage, a New England company) to the biggest, the oldest, and arguably the most popular wine convention on the planet.

          Vinitaly is a veritable Monte Carlo Grand Prix for an array of established wine producers, a place for them to really rev their engines and show what’s under the hood.  It’s also a proving ground for up and coming vintners, akin to the Indianapolis 500, where a good showing here might mean a shot for a run in the long term circuit.   For distributors and wholesalers, it’s a place to determine which wines and spirits will achieve superior pole position in a race to the finish.  Also, just like a race car driver woos a sponsor, vintners clamor to woo restaurateurs, caterers, and wine store owners with their wares, while the world’s journalists and opinion leaders take note.  At Vinitaly, tourists aren’t just spectators, they’re participants in the biggest wine and spirits tasting event of the year.

The event is kicked off on Saturday night with a stunning gala called “Vinitaly for You,” a wine bar event open to all wine lovers, sponsored by the international trade fair’s organizer Veronafiere, and is held in the historic center of Verona, in the alluring setting of the Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Piazza Bra.  With Verona’s colossal amphitheatre as a backdrop, the gala is but a starting point to an evening that spills into the restaurants and upscale boutiques lining the piazza and rambles down the marbled main thoroughfare, Via Mazzini, home to Gucci, Prada, Furla, and Cartier.  And that’s just the welcome wagon.

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For the next three days of Vinitaly, registered attendees of the exhibition succumb to an overwhelming wine tasting itinerary with offerings from the finest producers, such as Cecchi, Banfi, Sartori, Villa Sandi, and Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, to name a few.  Accompanied by the president and select representatives of Horizon, as well as fellow vendors and restaurateurs from New England, Jamie and I sipped, swished, and spat some of the finest vintages, such as Sassicaia, Nero d’Avola, Amarone, and Franciacorto, along with better-known varietals such as Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Brunello di Montalcino.  Our group would chat with vineyard representatives for close to an hour, and then we’d elbow our way through open-air corridors ripe with the aroma of sweet grapes, cured meats, aged cheese, and high-priced perfume until we arrived at the next bountiful spread.  At tables built into propped castles and fashionables bars, the bejeweled and Armani-clad vintners dazzled us with history and production methods, while Jamie and our group scribbled copious notes about acidity, tannins, and carbonic maceration, all Greek to me but critical in their business decisions.  For me, the event introduced me to rare and complex wines in which I’d otherwise never gain access.

Every day at Vinitaly is an education, a spectator sport, and a delicious carnival, all rolled into one.  Just when the day seems to squeeze the last bit of energy from a weary traveler, a brief respite at any one of the fine hotels dotting the city center or the convention roadway handily smoothes over the edges.  After that, nighttime inside Verona’s walls awaits.

Shakespeare wrote, “There is no world without Verona walls, but purgatory, torture, hell itself…”  Verona is home to one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world.  Built in AD 30, it features plays, opera and modern concerts to a capacity of 15,000 during the summer months.  But, the lights stay on all year, and during Vinitaly, they appear extra bright.  Also of note–Juliet’s balcony, the setting for one of Shakespeare’s best known plays.  Lovers can sign their names or tuck a love letter into Juliet’s Wall that leads into the small piazza bearing her statue, whose right breast is worn from decades of luck-seekers.

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Shops and restaurants cater to Vinitaly attendees, offering discounts to those who present their printed exhibition pass.  Reserve early for the dining experience of a lifetime.  Antico Caffe Dante, the superb restaurant located in Piazza Dante, after famed Italian author Dante Alighieri (Inferno, Divine Comedy, etc.), pairs rare wines with culinary delicacies that would make connoisseurs cry with satisfaction.  The famed restaurant, Antica Bottega del Vino, renowned since 1891 for its victuals, boasts one of the most extensive wine lists in Italy. It’s not a list so much as a chapter book of varietals over which any wine lover would drool.

No matter your expertise or your palate, Vinitaly has something to offer wine lovers of every caliber.  The next exhibition is April 6-9, 2014.  Plan now for the event of a lifetime.  For more information on accommodations, an exhibition guide, a list of vendors, and ticket registration for Vinitaly, go to http://vinitaly.com/

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   I travel to Italy often to hunt down my characters’ favorite wines.  The Race, my debut novel, about a car racing covert agent who rescues his son and saves Rome from an elusive international terrorist, features wines suggested by Jamie Pangione.  I met Jamie, my consultant and soul mate, and owner of Jamie’s Fine Wine & Spirits, while studying abroad in Rome.  Visit GinaFava.com to learn more.

 

 

 

 

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Buffalo Girls Won’t Ya Come Out Tonight…

Buffalo Girls Won’t Ya Come Out Tonight…and shop ’til you drop!

I’m so grateful this week to have my mom and two aunts visiting from The Queen City (Buffalo, NY.)  We’re shopping, eating out, and catching up on all the kids’ after-school activities, all the while searching for wine and dessert.

We finally found mom via GPS inside Lord & Taylor in time for the debate tonight.  Speaking of which…

The Second 2012 Debate of the Presidential Candidates is Tonight.

Please be sure to tune in tonight to hear President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney debate their views on the future of America and the paths they’ve set out to get there.

Have a wonderful week!

Red Wine, Not Necessarily the Culprit Behind Migraines

My friend, Leanne, recently told me that she suffers migraines, and that her doctor suggested she lay off the red wine.  I asked my resident wine expert, Jamie Pangione, whether there were any red wines that might not be such a pain.

First, Jamie said, migraine suffers who also happen to enjoy a glass or two of wine may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the sulfites in the wine.

Sulfites are additives that producers add to the wine in varying amounts to kill bacteria for a clean fermentation.  They are also a natural by-product of the fermentation process in wine, present in minute concentrations.

  • In nearly all cases, red wines possess less sulfites than white wines. 
  • Further, the better the quality of the wine, the less sulfites are present, because those producers add less.

So, if Leanne is indeed allergic to sulfites, then a switch to drinking a higher quality red may stave off her migraines.

Second, health statistics show that less than 2% of the population is susceptible to an allergic reaction to the low level of sulfites present in any typical red or white wine.  In other words, the low level of sulfites found in any wine may not necessarily be the cause of a person’s migraines.  Rather, when people typically imbibe wine, they also partake in snacks or meals that possess a level of other allergy compounds.  Leann should consider the ingredients of the individual foods paired with the wine to determine if this may be the cause of the migraines.

Third, organic and biodynamic wines by law do not allow sulfite additives.  Keeping in mind that sulfites are a natural by-product of fermentation and will show up in the wine in a minute concentration, Leann might consider trying these red or white wines as their sulfite content would be minimal at best.

By a process of elimination, Leann might just find that there are indeed a plethora of wines from which to choose and pair simply with particular foods that do not lead to a migraine reaction.

Jamie Pangione is a graduate of Boston University’s wine program, a certified wine specialist, and a sommelier, and is the owner of Jamie’s Fine Wine & Spirits I & II on the South Shore of Massachusetts.  Jamie’s been a tremendous resource for suggesting and pairing wines for the characters in both my novels, The Race and The Sculptor.  Do you have a wine question you’d like me to ask him?

Adding a Few Sips of Wine to My Editor’s Italian Itinerary

Amanda’s Italian Itinerary

While sharing a bottle of Castello Banfi’s Rosso di Montalcino 2006, with my editor and friend, Amanda, (more on her professional editing company later), we poured over photos from a recent trip my family and I had taken to Italy.   She told me that she and her husband had dreamed of visiting Italy someday as the ultimate anniversary gift to each other.  They even had their ideal itinerary planned, which included such cultural gems as Florence, Rome, and Venice.

I told her to scrap the plan.  (Cue the scratch of the needle on the vinyl album.)

Romantic anniversary, trip to Italy, lovers of fine wine?  Redo.  Add some wine to this itinerary, and now you’ve got something to write home about!  A trip with such promise MUST incorporate a drive through the hills of Tuscany.

Here’s some advice:  Before you leave the States, check any imported bottle of your favorite Italian fine wine, search the web for the location of the producer, and then add it to your itinerary.  Any travel agency can hook you up with accommodations and wine tours, such as AAA or check the internet for a reputable company like www.tuscanwinetour.net.

Better advice?   Ditch the train schedule, rent a car (we went through www.AutoEurope.com for the best rates,) and lose the GPS.  Instead, get lost on the single lane road (S222) that winds through the vineyards, olive groves, and castle-dotted estates of central Italy.  Pull over at any roadside enoteca di vino (local wine shop) to sample and purchase gorgeous wines, or tour a larger producer’s facility to learn how wines are made.  Countryside towns like Montepulciano and San Gimingnano boast enoteche built atop subterranean wine cellars centuries ago.  Other towns, like Montalcino, have an enoteca built right into a castle.  Villas and countryside inns abound between Siena and Florence, often offering homemade meals and self-produced vintages.  Drive, sample, stay overnight, repeat.

One of Italy’s oldest and most renowned vintners is Castello Banfi.  Last summer our family made it a point to include this producer in our own drive through Tuscany, just outside Montalcino center.  It MADE the entire trip.  Here’s why:

  • Banfi set us up with a private tour of their magnificent facility.  Even my children were amazed at the immense maze of pipes that connected the gargantuan barrels inside the factory and the warehoused cellars.
  • After, we enjoyed the best dinner of our lives at Taverna Banfi, where we feasted on a five-course Tuscan menu paired with their finest wines.  You don’t have to be a sommelier like my husband to know what a treat this is.  Click on the link to get a taste of their sumptuous multi-course menus and pairings.
  • Had a little too much to eat?  Imbibed one too many?  Or just want to stay a little longer to tour the castle, balsameria (homemade balsamic wine tasting), glass museum, and grounds? Stay the night in one of their luxury rooms or suites at Il Borgo.

Needless to say, I’ve convinced Amanda to explore Tuscany, and, while Rome, Florence, and Venice are truly places for which my heart always yearns, no trip to Italy is complete without a tour of Tuscany.

Who’s Amanda?

Who is this lovely friend who hopes to one day embark on this super-adventure?

Amanda Clark is the President and Editor-in-Chief of Grammar Chic, Inc. based in Charlotte, North Carolina.  According to the Grammar Chic website, “Grammar Chic, Inc. is a full-service Literary Consultancy that offers professional writing services that can address any need within the sphere of the written word.”  Amanda and her exceptional team professionally edited both of my novels, The Race, and The Sculptor.  I’m very pleased with the job that she did, and with her top-notch professionalism.

Well, I hope I’ve convinced you, dear reader, to incorporate a Tuscan tour into your Italy plans.  Let me know if you need more details, and remember to drink responsibly.  I’d love to hear your adventure stories of Tuscan travel!  Do you have a favorite winery, comfy villa, or superb cheese shop to pass along?