Stars and Stripes Forever!

Get the party started! Wine Spectator‘s mega-event kick-off to Vinitaly, Opera Wine, is a feel-good event that showcases Italy’s Top 100 wines (which for some reason, this year were 107!) Maybe because it was the 7th annual Opera Wine?

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The event sported an oddly American stars-and-stripes theme. Crank up the volume, because this blog post has a soundtrack, and it’s not what you’re thinking…

A lot goes into the selection and presentation of Italy’s best wines; this morning we heard about the blind tasting selection process from a panel including Wine Spectator’s Bruce Sanderson and Alison Napjus, both experts on Italy. That’s Vinitaly’s Stevie Kim presenting.

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Bruce Sanderson covers Tuscany and Piedmont, the heavy hitting big red regions known for Brunello and Barolo (in that order), and Alison Napjus covers the rest of Italy. Some life, huh? Wine journalists shape opinions and tastes, inform and communicate; it’s a big job, but someone’s got to do it, right?

After the presentations and explanations, people get down to the serious business of tasting.

Held in the Palazzo della Gran Guardia, one can meet the producers who are there to let you sip their chosen wine. In the days to come, in the more spacious pavilions of the Verona Fairgrounds, one can try the whole range of wines each winery makes. For me, it was a day to talk with women producers, from Daria Garofoli (Le Marche region), Valentina Argiolas (Sardinia) and the lovely ladies from Tenuta San Guido. Yes, that is a magnum of Sassicaia.

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This evening’s gala dinner on the eve of the fair’s official inauguration includes an awards ceremony: the International Vinitaly Award was being presented to Marco Caprai of the Arnaldo Caprai winery in Umbria, for having brought a renaissance to the Sagrantino wine of Montefalco (see our post from February), and for outstanding work in ecology (the Green Revolution) and wine tourism.

 

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On the blue carpet with Gina Gallo

The American side of this prize went to Gina Gallo of the famed Italian American winemaking family. Who doesn’t remember Ernesto and Julio Gallo those great pioneers of the California wine scene? Gina spoke with emotion and great pride about her family’s work, and their ties to their Italian roots. Gallo is not only the largest exporter of California wine, but also an importer/distributor. And again on the ecological side, Gallo helped develop and implement the Code of Sustainable Wine Growing Practices.

I told you I was interested in talking to women producers today. On the left, the famous French actress and model, Carole Bouquet, who makes a mean Passito di Pantelleria. On the right, José Rallo of Donnafugata, perhaps Sicily’s best known winery, maker of the scrumptious Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria. That Zibibbo grape just keeps on giving… More anon about Zibibbo and other Italian native grape varieties as we keep reporting, live from Verona!

Welcome to Vinitaly 2018! Cin-cin!

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