As Vinitaly 2018 gets underway in Verona so the world’s wine industry turns all of its attention on this richest of wine producing nations. Unless you are really serious about your Italian wine Vinitaly can often play second fiddle to the global wine shows such as Prowein and Vinexpo. But if Italian wine is your thing then there really is nothing like it. Thousands of producers, international trade buyers and, yes, local Italians, all vying for each other’s attention. We rewind to this time last year when Alexander Stone, wine business student from the Burgundy School of Business was The Buyer’s man on the ground to capture what Vinitaly is all about.
Vinitaly is unique on the trade fair circuit in that it is open to both wine buying professionals and the general public. But it makes for a refreshing change and a good, relaxed, fun and engaging atmosphere.
Vinitaly 2017. Beyond these two words, I had zero expectations and knowledge about what I had agreed to undertake before I arrived at the entrance on the outskirts of Verona thronged with attendees waiting to enter. I quickly realised that it was a far larger wine fair than I had expected.
Four days and 17 different halls, each dedicated to at least one wine region. Beer, food products and olive oils are also all at home at Vinitaly in the Sol & Agrifood tent and technology innovations in the Enolitech tent. While touted as an international wine fair, the fair is largely dominated by the Italian wine regions. If you’re not interested in the Italian wine industry, whether academically, business or otherwise, then this is not the fair for you.
Hailing from a New World wine country with little chance to experience such a diverse range of Italian wines, I personally was in heaven.
Vinitaly is open to business people and casual wine fair-goers alike. While prices have steadily increased in the past few years in an effort to drive away those just there to drink until they can’t stand, attendance at Vinitaly is still open to the public and they still come in large numbers. Suits discussing business can be seen walking next to families with prams, next to groups of friends there to have a day tasting wine and enjoying the festive atmosphere With the amazing Italian fashion flair adding colour and vibrancy to proceedings.
Business deals are clearly taking place on the many stands and counters, but there is an undeniable casualness and festive air to the fair, compared to usual trade shows, and producers are more than happy to allow you to taste their wines free of expectation.
The world of Italy
Vinitaly really is an ocean of Italian wines, with all its differences and distinct regions on show. From bold, powerful and elegant Super Tuscan reds to perfumed Alto Adige whites, and then refreshing DOCG Prosecco of Veneto. Emerging from the fair each day with palate numbed I would feel both exhausted and eager to resume this journey through the Italian wine regions the next day. Four days is not enough time to thoroughly understand the range and breadth available. For any wine connoisseur eager to understand more about Italian wines this wine fair is a must.
From vines planted in Vesuviun volcanic soils to underwater soils of Piemonte, the range and diversity or terroirs on display is extraordinary. I was amazed at the range and quality of the wines I encountered, both from larger companies and those from small family productions.
Another factor of the fair that struck me was the high level of service evident at Vinitaly. At every booth I visited the staff were unfailingly courteous, welcoming, extremely knowledgeable about their wines and willing to recommend neighbours they felt you may also find interesting. Which really is very different from other professional wine shows. They also almost always spoke English, which as a non-Italian linguist I was relieved to discover.
Vinitaly was an amazing way to experience Italian wines from a range of regions and a tremendous amount of fun. The atmosphere was fantastic, the wines delectable and the staff quality sublime. If you’re looking to get into business with Italian wines, enter the Italian wine market, or simply experience a range of wines from all the different wine regions of Italy then I highly recommend Vinitaly.
Vinitaly 2017: in numbers
- 128,000 visitors from 142 countries
- 30,000 international wine buyers, up 8% on 2016.
- Key visiting countries were United States (+6%), Germany (+3%), United Kingdom (+4%), China (+12%), Russia (+42%), Japan (+2%), Northern Europe (+2%), the Netherlands and Belgium (+6%) and Brazil (+29%). There were first time buyers from Panama and Senegal.
- The show attracted 4,270 exhibiting companies from 30 countries, up 4%.
- It is also not all about Italy with a 74% increase in international exhibitors.
- There were also a series of 400 seminars and debates looking at issues such as increased US protectionism and the implications of Brexit.
- There was also key business deals done including China’s 1919 distribution business signing a deal with the Vinitaly International Academy to increase Italian wine sales in China by more than 2 million bottles by 2020, worth €68 million euros.
- The show also attracted buyers from China’s key distribution and retail operators, Alibaba, Cofco, Winehoo and Suning.
- The 52nd edition of Vinitaly will take place between April 15-18, 2018.