Impressions of VinItaly NYC 2014

VinItaly Logo

I apologize in advance that this post is text-heavy, but I don’t like taking a camera to these kind of events. I want to focus on the experience, the wines I try, the personal connections I make. I find taking photos distracts me from that. For another impression check out Anatoli’s excellent post he just published.

More often than not I have these moments where I am asking myself: How did I get here? And how do I deserve this? This year’s VinItaly and Slow Food tasting in New York was definitely one of those moments that made me appreciate my blogging and all that it has brought to my life. Before we get to the tasting, I need to give credit where credit is due:

I would never have gone had it not been for my formidable partner in crime and friend Stefano, of Clicks and Corks, who sent me an email in November telling me to see whether I could make it to New York for VinItaly. This put the idea in my head, and when I found decently priced tickets Nina and I decided to go. We stayed in Connecticut with Stefano and Francesca (of the wonderful food blog Flora’s Table), who were the most hospitable hosts you can imagine. We flew in Saturday, and Sunday we had a big dinner with fellow bloggers Anatoli (the inimitable Talk-a-vino) and his wife, Suzanne (of the great food blog A Pug in the Kitchen) and Azita (of the Persian, mouthwatering food blog Fig and Quince). As you can tell, Francesca was on a suicide mission, inviting all these fellow food bloggers to her house and cooking dinner for them….just as us wine bloggers were trying to outdo each other with our wines (Nina and I had checked a bag to be able to bring some wines). It was a competition of sorts, but tampered by the mutual respect for each other and the fun we had with the meal, wines, and company. What a night it was! Francesca truly outdid herself with her apple and speck risotto, which will become a staple for me, and her veal roast which was so so so tender. Incredible! It was wonderful meeting Stefano and Francesca again, and then meeting these online friends that I now am able to count as real world friends! Thank you all, for a spectacular evening!!

Monday morning, we braved the snow and headed to downtown Manhattan for the VinItaly NYC tasting. Let me give you a tiny bit of background: VinItaly is the largest tasting of Italian wines in the world, held every year in Verona, Italy. Not long ago, the organization decided to branch out and hold tastings in New York, Moscow, Chengdu, and Hong Kong as VinItaly International. VinItaly teamed up with Slow Wine who also brought wineries to New York for what turned out to be a great tasting experience. The tasting lasted from 1pm until 5.30pm, but there were all sorts of classes in the morning as well. While I did not manage to get into any, Nina was able to snatch a place in a tasting class on Franciacorta (Italy’s Champagne, as they dub themselves) and one on Amarone (lucky her!).

If you have never been to a tasting like this, it is hard to imagine what goes on there, so let me give you an idea: You enter a hall that has rows and rows of tables, behind which winery representatives stand, three bottles of wine in front of them. If I say row upon row, I mean row upon row: Slow Wine alone had brought 70 wineries, and VinItaly another 50. You can do the math, but that is a lot of wine. And naturally, I wasn’t able to taste them all. But I tasted a fair share: I have, just to give you one example, never had that much Barolo in my life (combined), and it was a marvelous experience. The best part to me, though, is talking to the winemakers, hearing their stories (not their sales pitches necessarily)…these tastings are a great opportunity to meet these folks, while the tasting itself is completely overwhelming. You don’t have much time to fully experience the wine, and the whole spitting is also not necessarily conducive to a full wine experience….given that notes are cryptic and hardly worth sharing, let me just share a few stories with you:

Treasure trove for Wine Century Club aspirants
VinItaly is a feast for Wine Century Club aspirants. Italy, along with Portugal and Greece, is a cornucopia of indigenous grapes that only grow in minuscule quantities and still survive. Case in point: The white grape Timorasso that I tried. The winemaker told me that total production by 23 producers is 300,000 bottles. Worldwide. That’s it. How incredible is that? I am not saying there aren’t reasons why this grape is not more popular (the wine was rather bland), but the odds of ever being able to try this grape are so low, how can I not be excited about this? We added about 30 grapes to our list with this tasting alone and are halfway to Double Membership!

Re-trying rare grapes you only tried once
In that same vein, it’s also really exciting to find several wines of a particular grape that one has only tried once in the past. Case in point: Remember my post on a wine called Lacrima di Morro d’Alba? I really, really liked that wine. And there we were, towards the end, standing at a table, glancing over, and I see the words Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and almost jump!! Massimo and Pascale, the owners of Tenuta San Marcello in the Marche region, were surprised I was aware of the grape, and my ecstatic behavior paired with their gentle humor and friendly demeanor made for quite the match. Unsurprisingly, their wines were very good and since it was towards the end of VinItaly they were my last impression there…couldn’t have asked for more!

200 year old vines?
A winemaker from Mount Etna had an eye opening revelation for me: He told me that his vines are over 200 years old. 200 years, I am not kidding you! I looked at him in disbelief and then asked how low the yield was. Because in Germany, these 120 year old vines have way lower yields. Now was his turn to look at me in disbelief: NOOOOO, the yields were super high! I just stared at him. He then pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures: His vines looked like trees, seriously. The trunks were massive, like trees. And then he smiled and explained: Yes, yields go down, but it is a curve, and after 180 years or so, yields go up again….go figure. Reason to hold on to the old vines for my German winemaker friends!

Can your face muscles be sore?
After tasting dozens and dozens of wines, mostly red, mostly young, mostly quite tannic and acidic, swishing them around in my mouth, my facial muscles got so tired that it became harder and harder to muster the force to spit the wine out in style….towards the end, I had to grab the spit bucket, hold it under my mouth, and just let it run. That was embarrassing and I will need to train my muscles more!

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22 thoughts on “Impressions of VinItaly NYC 2014

  1. Stefano says:

    My friend, thank you so much for your as always way too kind words! We had a wonderful time and so much fun with you guys, both at dinner and then at Vinitaly. So much good wine, so little time! :-)
    You are spot on regarding Italy’s endless indigenous varieties, some of which have fortunately been saved from extinction thanks to the hard work and financial commitment of few enlightened producers. Timorasso is certainly one such variety.
    Excellent recap as always.
    Take care and apologies for being so late to the party here. You know why. ;-)

  2. […] are some basics, and my new found friends over at Parade magazine, Allie and Melissa (we met at VinItaly), wrote a great piece about these basics a while back. The key is “FEW”, which stands […]

  3. vinoinlove says:

    Very nice post, Oliver! Sounds like you had lots of fun at VinItaly NYC :) Great recap!

    The “original” VinItaly in Verona is taking place at the beginning April – not sure if I’ll go this year since I went there the last two years..

    • Oh come on, Julian, you HAVE to go!!! How can you not??? :)

      It really was such a wonderful experience. I love Italian wines, and it is nice to have great quality at ones hands in such abundance!

      • vinoinlove says:

        Yea I’m still debating whether I’ll go or not. Just a two weeks before VinItaly there is ProWein in Düsseldorf and I might go there instead. I never went to ProWein but I heard it’s a great wine fair and after all it’s the most important wine show for German wine..

        • I’ve never been as well, but you will be able to taste so many outstanding Rieslings that it is well worth your time! Make sure to say hi to my fav producers Karl Erbes, Dr. Hermann, Meierer…:)

  4. Francesca says:

    Hello Oliver!
    Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m very happy that you and Nina enjoyed your stay with us, the food and the company. I didn’t feel on a suicide mission, though! ;-) After all, I was among friends and … what are friends for? :-)

  5. […] to hit the City together!) You can read their takes on the event directly on Anatoli’s and Oliver’s blogs. I have not yet read their accounts of our foray into Italian wine territory myself because […]

  6. […] us to hit the City together!) You can read their takes on the event directly on Anatoli’s and Oliver’s blogs. I have not yet read their accounts of our foray into Italian wine territory myself because I […]

  7. chef mimi says:

    The get together with the bloggers sounds good enough for me! What a fun visit!

  8. talkavino says:

    Great recap, Oliver. We did have lots of fun together! Cheers, my friend!

  9. ksbeth says:

    what a great post on so many levels. glad for the personal connections and the event sounds amazing. i’ve never heard of it, so it is all new to me. )

  10. What a wonderful time you two must have had. The food, the wines and the companionship must have been a pairing made in heaven. Enjoy the memories, while us mere mortals languish in envy over your escapades, and too bad there was not a picture of you drooling the wine out at the end of the afternoon. I am so happy for you, and revel in your non heavy textual account.

    • Hahaha, John! Thanks. It was fun, lots of fun, and that’s what made it great.

      I am SO glad there are no photos of me just letting the wine run out of my mouth at the end of the day…

  11. I guess I will have to buddy up to Stefano to get an invite for next year!

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