Vinitaly is a gargantuan trade fair—where for several days each year more than 4,500 companies representing some 18,000 wines gather on the edge of Verona—a World Heritage city located an hour drive west of Venice. Wines from all over Italy are represented in a dozen different halls: from Sicily in the south to Alto Adige in the north; from Puglia in the east to Piedmont in the west. There are specific halls for several regions, including Tuscany, Sardinia, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and even an ‘Organic Hall.’ Many building exteriors are decorated with astonishing colors.
This fair began in 1967 and is now held annually each April (it was from the 7th through 10th, this year). It’s a lively event—where morning doppio espressos are downed before tastings and meetings and explorations of different wines. This is followed by, say, a glass of Ferrari Perlé Zero sparkling wine from the mountains of Trentino together with a lunch of gnocchi in truffle sauce. While exploring halls in the afternoon you can meet a suited older man sharing his Pinot Noir—produced close to the source of the Arno River—beside a zesty young woman from Cortona pouring glasses of cult Syrah. The enthusiasm is vibrant, the clothing styles eye-catching and the energy levels needed to hustle across this massive complex can be demanding. If you attend, park at one of several designated location on the outskirts of town, and fleets of shuttle busses will deliver you rapidly to and from the event.
Below is a list of representative wines tasted from a handful of regions – each of which would score between 92 and 100 points on a 100-point scale.
Jacopo Biondi Santi. 2016 Sassoalloro.
Made 100% from the Sangiovese Grosso clone from this iconic Tuscan producer. Plum, fruit punch, tobacco on the nose, cherries and licorice in the mouth. A wine for a feast of meat, seriously made and easy to drink.
Cantine Intorcia. Marsala Vintage 2015 Rubino Superiore. (35.00 Euros) [Superlative Value]
This sweet wine made from Nero d’Avola grapes includes tastes of deep dark chocolate, cherries and treacle from a renowned producer on the west coast of Sicily. This producer also makes some excellent sweet wines from Grillo grapes.
Castello di Albola. 2015 Santa Caterina Gran Selezione Chianti Classico (DOCG). (28.00 Euros). [Excellent Value]
Smoke and black cherries on the nose, with a citrus streak of juicy acidity. Perfect for a steak dinner. The wine is made predominantly (90%) from Sangiovese grapes grown at 1,800 feet (550 meters) elevation—which helps provide floral aromas and contributes to an aging potential of 20 to 30 years.
Castello del Poggio. 2016 Barbera d’Asti. (9.00 Euros) [Superlative Value]
The taste provides a generous mouthful of cherries, as well as a bit of mocha and some spice. From a large estate located in Piedmont.
Cataldi Madonna. 2017 SuperGiulia and 2018 Giulia. (16.00 Euros and 8.00 Euros) [Superlative Values]
Made from the Pecorino grape and named after this Abruzzo winemaker/owner’s daughter. The SuperGiulia includes explosive aromatics on the nose, like that of a Viognier, and the taste is a tropical fruit medley. The Giulia includes the mild scent of banana chips and mint on the nose, while in the mouth it resembles a Pinot Gris meeting Viognier—open, sweet and full of nuanced flavors. The mountainous region of production known as the ‘oven of Abruzzo’ is hot during days but also cool at night—providing acidity and freshness that give the wine length and will allow it to age for a decade.
Occhipinti. 2014 Grotte Alte Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico (DOCG). (42.00 Euros) [Excellent Value]
Made from both Frappato and Nero d’Avola grapes, this gorgeous stream of juice from southern Sicily includes a spicy bite laced with a mild taste of raspberry.
Corte Guala. 2016 Rosso Veneto [Superlative Value]
Tasted not at Vinitaly but in a nearby restaurant, this IGT blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Corvina is made in Verona. It’s a deep, dark delight with hints of Amarone (because of the 25% presence of the Corvina grape).
Stefano Amerighi. 2015 Syrah. (36.00 Euros) [Superlative Value]
This Amerighi wine made with collaborator Giulia Marangon comes from a single vineyard above clay and limestone in Cortona. It has a voluptuous nose that is a deep, dark fruit bomb. This one catches you on the first scent and won’t let you go. A rocking rodeo of balanced flavors.
Firriato. 2014 Ribeca Perricone (red blend). (15.00 Euros) [Superlative Value]
This Sicilian producer uses the relatively rare and difficult to grow grape Perricone in the west of Sicily, of which only 200 acres (80 hectares) existed three decades ago. It is often blended with Nero d’Avola. On the nose this includes light floral aromas and the scent of cherries, mint, strawberry, grapefruit, tobacco and tar.
Capurso. 2015 Valpolicella Superiore. (16.50 Euros) [Excellent Value]
Tasted not at Vinitaly but at an agriturismo wine producer and rest house outside Verona, this includes distinct aromas of green pepper, currants, fudge, amarone, oranges and rum, while in the mouth it tastes of cherries, orange liqueur, sultanas and chocolate wafers. This is a beguiling beauty of a wine because although it contains only 14% alcohol, it has the heft and dignity of a well-structured, higher alcohol sweet wine.
Cuna di Federico Staderini. 2016 Cuna Toscana IGT (Pinot Noir). ($40.00 Euros) [Good Value]
This silky and distinct Pinot Noir is made from vines located far off the main regions of Tuscany—near the source of the Arno River. A total of 3,000 bottles produced per year, all made from Pinot Noir.