Italian Grapevine has been on the road, as far away as South Africa, and the good news is: Italian wine is alive and well and living in Johannesburg!
During the recent festivities for the week of Italian Cuisine in the World, held worldwide November 18 -24, 2019, I happened to be in the bustling South African metropolis (some 10 million inhabitants), at a place called Montecasino which was hosting an event called Vino in Piazza.
There are an estimated 8 to 10 million inhabitants in Greater Johannesburg, a trendy city and the largest in South Africa. So while this beautiful country, so rich in natural resources, produces its very own delicious wine (more about that in an upcoming post…), this is a market to be explored and penetrated.
Lots of curious tasters were roaming the sunlit piazza in this shopping mall-cum-casino (hence the name, with only one S!) on a warm Sunday in November (remember, the seasons are inverted here in the southern hemisphere – so it was the beginning of summer!)
Stands were crowded with eager would-be Italian wine drinkers, as the overheated, jet-lagged purveyors of the culture of vino italiano poured their wares.
This year the week was dedicated to the culture of taste, and included anything linked to Leonardo da Vinci, as it was the 500th anniversary of his death. Yours truly presented a talk about Leonardo and Wine at the Società Dante Alighieri in Johannesburg, which is a kind of cultural hub for those passionate about Italy.
A more general public was reached at Montecasino, although the Disneyland-like interpretation of Italy here – from architecture to restaurants, to 500 cars parked as props along the little fake strade – probably does attract somewhat of an Italophile crowd.
Italian restaurants inside Montecasino
Expensive props: actual cars parked along fake streets
They were giving away Ferrari’s like they were going out of style… Quite unbelievable, but of course, there was a magic suspension of reality, a theme park atmosphere, and the lure of luxury in the air.
Heartening to see Italian chefs perform cooking shows, and Lavazza was also holding some kind of raffle.
The Italian Consulate was also onhand to spread more info about Italian culture.
And maybe combat that Dolce&Gabbana interpretation that has by now become cliché, here in a South African interpretation:
I was undeniably happy to see the wines of Italy appreciated, from the Veneto (Zonin, Tenuta Sant’Antonio) to Sicily (Tasca d’Almerita, Firriato) and everywhere in between…
Evviva, il vino italiano!