Primo Maggio, in Aosta Valley

It’s been some time since I’ve updated the site. The reasons are simple – not enough time. I’ve been on the road now for nearly 5 months, and during that time, lots of things can happen; things like not having an internet connection, or having one, but it’s so far out in the country that uploads can take 10 minutes for a single picture, etc. It’s for these reasons, and more, that I decided early on not to try and update every day as there’s simply too much to write about: visits with producers, trade fairs, tasting notes, travelogue, etc.

But today, the 1st of May, a national holiday here in Italy (and other countries, too), there is nothing happening; most places are closed; certainly wineries, and winegrowers are taking the day to relax.

Today I’m waking up in the Aosta valley. The day before I woke up in Geneva, Switzerland, and the day before that, in Soave (Veneto). So yeah, I move around. Which is another way of saying that if I didn’t have to drive so much, I’d have time for posting here. But posting here is not the priority, visiting winegrowers all across Italia is the priority.

a view from Charvensod, Aosta Valley
Winegrowing is all around me – across the valley, to my right, left, and behind me. Nearly all of it is dangerously steep farming, which is to say it’s pretty much all done by hand in these parts.

The next few days, my final days of this winter/spring trip, will be spent in Langhe area; my flight to Paris is this Friday (I’ve got 5 nights in Paris, and 6 nights in Bordeaux), and my return flight to the States is a little more than two weeks away. But really, if I could skip my visits within France, I would, as I’m ready to return home, having left in the middle of January. Plus, it’s France, and not Italy 😉

(but really, my time there is meant for friends, not much wine stuff)

As importantly, I’m eager for my return so I can get started on some new projects. These projects have come about as a result of my extended travels throughout Italy (I first came in 1991; have logged well over 100,000 km). To be clear, in the early years, my time here was for tourism, for holiday. But for more than a decade, my travels here have had just one purpose, WINE – the growing, the people, the places, and the business of wine.

To recap, here are some of the things I’ve done since arriving here on 14 February:

Benvenuto Brunello, Montalcino  – a four-day event introducing the new releases (Rosso, Brunello, and Riserva) to journalists, the trade, and the public. There were over 130 producers, and easily more than 500 wines being poured. But, there are more than 230 winegrowers in Montalicino zone, and so I chose to spend a month in the region to taste many of the wines not presented during the event.

Benvenuto Brunello 2018
Benvenuto Brunello 2018, cold and wet outside, crowded, warm and fun inside

ProWein, Dusseldorf – a three day event, the world’s largest, that became four days with the inclusion of Tre Bicchieri the day before the official start of the fair. While one could easily find wines from all across the globe here, I focused my attention pretty much exclusively on Italian wines. This is a very well organized fair, and as it’s not open to the public, I was able to accomplish a lot. The day after the fair, I was already looking at booking my return.

This year I had some time, so I decided to drive from Piemonte to Dusseldorf, though I don’t see myself doing that again as it takes the better part of two days, and is subject to road conditions/weather which can be a bit risky during the middle of March in Germany.

One of three large halls for Italian wines
not all of the Italian producers were at ProWein, of course, but a lot of the big and small producers were, including hundreds from Langhe/Piemonte
ProWein 2018
my press pass allows me early entry, which is nice because I can capture some pictures and experience the fair each day before the people/producers arrive – the calm before the storm, if you will

 

Taste Alto Piemonte, Novara, Piemonte – this was the second year for this fair, and it was another success. The (newly released) wines from regions like Ghemme, Lessona, Bramaterra, etc., from 50 different producers (I ran out of time/steam and tasted just more than half of them). Tasting notes will follow. b

Taste Alto Piemonte 2018
picture taken about 2 minutes after they opened – 20 minutes later, and for the rest of the day, it was packed

Roero Days, Guarene, Piemonte – this multi-day fair is for the press as well as the public. The venue is not my favorite as the spot can/does become too crowded (true of most fairs, but especially those with public attendance). That said, I tasted many exciting wines and even found some new producers; roughly a hundred tasting notes will follow.

Roero days 2018
it was a cold and wet day, but the winegrowers and visitors were warm and full of joy

ViniVeri, Cerea, Verona – a natural wine fair held in a great venue, packed with some of the most exciting wines I tasted so far this year. I love this fair, and the joy and passion of the winegrowers comes across in the wines, and the conversations.

ViniVeri 2018
A natural wine fair held about 40 minutes outside of Verona – easily one of the best fairs I attend each year. LOTS of really exciting wines!

 

ViniVeri 2018 2
relaxed, fun, and loaded with great wines/producers; ViniVeri, ti voglio bene

 

Opera Wine, Verona – this is a three hour even held the day before VinItaly officially begins. This collaboration between Wine Spectator and VinItaly is a chance to taste wines from “100 great producers”, as chosen by Wine Spectator. It’s a great event, crowded but not crazy, and a chance to taste some of Italy’s best (famous and not so famous) wines, some from ten+ years ago. My personal 100 best would look a lot different, OK, pretty much completely different – think names/wines you’ve probably not heard of before.

OperaWine 2018
From Gaja to AgriPunica (i.e. the famous and the not-so famous). Billed as “100 great producers”, not necessarily the Top 100 wines

 

VinItaly, Verona – a crazy, fun, and enjoyable time; this was was my favorite in 11 years as I decided to skip the first day (Sunday), the busiest day. For the next three days, and especially Wednesday when it’s very relaxed (i.e. attendance is light), I tasted several hundred more wines not tasted (with a few exceptions) at ProWein, Benvenuto Brunello, or during personal visits I’d had during the previous two months on the ground).

VinItaly 2018
I spent half a day in the Tuscany pavillion, a little more than that in the Piemonte pavilion, and the balance of the time across the remainder of the pavillions. Found some new, exciting wines, and tasted many from perennial favorites, too.

 

The cold and rain have returned to Piemonte (the recent hot spell, which lasted nearly two weeks) today, and I’ve decided to take the time to organize some notes, and the next phase of this trip – 6 nights in Bordeaux, and 5 in Paris – instead of visiting any producers. This next phase probably sounds like more fun than it will actually be; it’s a chance to see some friends I’ve not visited with in quite a long time, and so in the end it will be worth it.

Much more to come once this 89 day European odyssey has concluded in just a few more weeks, including producer visits in Friuli, Lombardia, Umbria, Liguria, Toscana, Piemonte, Veneto, etc.

Verona 2018
if visiting Verona, find this bar for a really fun by the glass list. Highly recommended.

 

header photo: Tuscan sunset as seen from the Poggibonsi/Chianti Classico area

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