The 48th edition of Vinitaly is just a couple of days away, and this marks the third year I will be attending. As many of you know, Vinitaly is the yearly event for the wine sector and this year it runs from April 6 -9. These last few weeks I have been strategizing on my plan of attack. If you have ever been to Vinitaly, or any other international and supremely important show, you know planning is essential to surviving. Personally, if I don’t have a plan going in, I get overwhelmed easily, too easily, and lose myself quickly.
Space-wise Vinitaly is enormous. Taking place very year in Verona Fiera, the show covers 16+ different halls and each year boasts thousands upon thousands of exhibitors, both wineries and companies operating in the wine industry. Just last year there were over 4000 exhibitors and close to 150,000 visitors. If you are looking to make any strides at Vinitaly, whether professionally or just for your own personal benefit, you must give some thought as to how you will approach the event. Planning and action is in essence what moves a person from thinking (or day-dreaming) about something to actually accomplishing it. The same goes for attending such an event.
Firstly, let’s establish one thing. It is absolutely impossible to see and do everything at Vinitaly, even if you are there over the whole of four days, which I don’t recommend unless you are part of the trade and even then it’s quite a lot. You must pick and choose, divide and conquer. If you’re going for professional reasons you probably already have your list of contacts and meetings set-up. However, if you are going there to learn a bit more and taste some great wine without the hassle of traveling all over the boot, then you’ll probably want to take a look at the website www.vinitaly.com. There you’ll find the list of exhibitors (but just reading through it is a job in and of itself!), map of the event (with some new additions for this year), a daily calendar of conferences, tastings, and workshops, and any special shows that are occurring simultaneously.
The first year I began my planning by sifting through the list of exhibitors, which was honestly a big mistake. I find the list is only helpful if you need to locate the exact stand of a producer, or if you want to just quickly scan the exhibitors to see if a name jumps out at you. If you’re not at least familiar with wineries in a specific region then it merely becomes an exercise in scrolling through pages of names. This year the list is more visually appealing and easier to navigate. It’s also helpful that the producer’s website and wines produced are included in the list.
Taking a look at the calendar of conferences and tastings to see what has been organized is a good way to delve into Vinitaly. Some of the events are free or low-cost and there is variety in terms of wines being tasted and topics being addressed, such as organic or biodynamic wines, trends in wine production and consumption, and emerging markets. Some of the conferences sell out quickly so just bear in mind that it’s best to book in advance so you don’t miss out.
Many people that are in to Italian wine have preferred regions or varietals. Vinitaly is divided by the regions of Italy with most regions having their own dedicated space. This makes the whole event easier to navigate. It’s no surprise that some of the biggest regions are Tuscany, Veneto, Marche, Piedmont, Sicily, and Puglia and therefore have the most dedicated space. Some of the smaller production regions, Calabria, Sardinia, and Umbria, for example, are grouped together with a few other smaller regions. If you have a specific region or local varietal that you would like to learn more about, it’s probably best to start by taking a look at those halls first. If you follow wine blogs or wine writers see what they recommend for those regions or varietals and then try to seek out those producers. Producers like inquisitive visitors and are willing to explain a bit about their wines and wine-making process. Some producers will also present a new label or showcase a new vintage, giving visitors the added bonus of getting a first-hand look at how the winery is evolving.
Although Vinitaly can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming, wine is meant to be fun and enjoyable. A little planning should help ease any anxiety that comes with attending such a massive event. Also don’t forget to leave some time for wandering, you can discover great wines by just following your instinct.
And most importantly, make sure to use those spit buckets (kinda gross, I know). Otherwise, I highly doubt you’ll make it to lunch without a little stumbling.