Last Saturday I had the great good fortune to attend Wine Spectator’s pull-out-the-stops event, Opera Wine 2021 live and in person in Verona. This was one of the first live tasting events since the pandemic, and it brought together – as is tradition – producers, buyers, journalists from around the world to taste the top 100 Italian wines (selected by Wine Spectator, a world-leading wine magazine reaching over 3 million readers.)
The event, which usually kicks off Vinitaly, was even more special this year as it celebrated its 10th anniversary. No Vinitaly this year or last, during the annus horribilis of 2020. As 2021 progresses, things are timidly edging toward normalcy.
This stand-alone event was held in a new location, the spacious and airy halls of the Gallerie Mercatali in Verona, where the wines and the guests enjoyed cool temperatures despite the summer scorcher outside. And it was special in so many ways, it’s hard to describe.
Instead of 100 wines, there were over 180 – because Wine Spectator chose to include all those wineries who over the years had been selected in the top 100 ranking. Some producers thus chose to showcase older vintages, such as the 2001 Sassicaia in magnum bottles – now that is one line-up of dead soldiers!
As readers of this blog must have realized by now, I’m a privileged person; I’m lucky enough to have attended Opera Wine many times. This year was different: instead of reaching out to explore new, previously untasted wines, it was an opportunity to see friends, to have the human touch. All around me, people were doing the same thing: sipping a vintage with an old friend or a producer they’re fond of – and more than one tear of happiness was shed!
Wine is a convivial element – it is meant to be shared. At Opera Wine, we were able to experience that renewed joy in tasting with friends, with business acquaintances, with people from our world, and look each other in the eyes and not through a computer screen, and recognize that we’d all been through something together, but separately. And now that we were actually together in person, the thing that counts the most is that we are all People who Need People, like Barbra Streisand said (required listening! Click the link!)
Then there are friends of friends, new meetings, new sips and flavors… like this special Prosecco from Montagnole, Rive di Santo Stefano. Or meeting and greeting women winemakers… Have to say, I have a penchant for chatting with Donne del Vino, whether they are part of our national association or not… hats off to these ladies whose wines are recognized among the 100 best from Italy!
Wine is love, they say. A tasting, a sipping, a chance to savor relationships and human contact, and that most important human bond, friendship.
After the Black Death in 1348 came the Renaissance, and after this pandemic will come a rebirth of sorts: a new life, a new economy, a new pleasure in being with people, a new desire to enjoy and share what is beautiful. (By the way, have all of you re-read some of Boccaccio’s fun stories from the Decameron during this year of pandemic? If not, that is required reading, and will remind you that keeping a sense of humor through thick and thin is a good strategy for overcoming the tough moments!)
It’s important to end on a sweet note… Here is one of Italy’s best and one of my favorites…
This year Opera Wine ended with a real opera. Aida, what else?, conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti in the Verona Arena.
Thank you to Wine Spectator, Veronafiere, Verona itself and all the people who made this first in-person event a success. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world! And we are!