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The 55th edition of Italy’s largest wine exhibition was marked by creative synergy and unique collaborations.
Ancient Verona — the city where one of the world’s leading wine exhibitions, Vinitaly, was traditionally (for the 55th time!) held in the first days of April — has at least three internationally recognized totemic landmarks. Touching them, in the opinion of every mystically minded person, brings good luck. First, there is a statue of Juliet (for those who seek mutual love), the second is a metal heart in Piazza Bra near the Arena (universal usage) and thor comes a bronze horse by the Swiss sculptor Nag Arnoldi, standing in front of the Veronafiere building (this one, for a successful business). Judging by the horse’s smooth and shiny rump (which seems to be the artist’s intention), Verona is as popular with businessmen, especially those who work in wine, as it is with lovers who flock to this romantic city from all over the world.
This year’s quorum at Vinitaly showed a convincing, or rather, explosive growth of interest from international operators: 93,000 visitors, of which almost 30,000 came from other countries. Statistics showed an increase in the number of foreign buyers by almost 20% compared to last year. Therefore, at least 1/3 of the experts accredited at the exhibition turned out to be representatives of one of the 143 registered countries.
If we add some more numbers, it should be noted that this year, from April 1 to 5, 45,000 tastings took place (+50% compared to 2022), held by the Veronafiere administration and the ICE-Trade Agency, as well as during the Vinitaly and the City Off-Show. In pure numbers, the Vinitaly expo space is merely a business show attended by more than 4,000 exhibitors from more than 30 countries over four days, with 17 halls covering an exhibition area of 100,000 square meters. The numbers also demonstrate how well the new pre-negotiation policy implemented by Vinitaly organizers has worked, as evidenced by more than 11,000 scheduled business meetings between exhibiting companies and buyers via the Vinitaly Plus platform.
At Vinitaly 2023, one could find several areas dedicated to trendy topics: Vinitaly Bio, Vinitaly Mixology, Micro Mega Wines with an emphasis on niche wines and limited series, Taste and Buy – a program of coordination with operators selected from the exhibition network in cooperation with consortia, etc.
Veronafiere President Federico Bricolo commented on the results of this year’s wine hub at the closing of Vinitaly: “Our goal is to build a permanent and coordinated advertising platform together with our institutional partners. Also we aim to attract investments to Italy, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to promote Italian products abroad — in Brazil and China, in the United States, Japan, South Korea.”
The managing director of Veronafiere, Maurizio Danese, also spoke about the strengthening of the international business vector: “Our investments aimed at stimulating the interest of foreign buyers have achieved very effective results for Vinitaly Expo this year. The facts and figures demonstrated by the supply chain clearly show how, in just one decade, wine has firmly become a strategic asset among Italian products. That is why we must now strive to activate and accelerate the project to make Vinitaly an even more effective international brand, increasing the attendance of professional operators from abroad and our own permanent participation in the world markets. The new approach has been introduced, but the job is still in progress: Vinitaly will always be the driving force behind Made in Italy – both at home and abroad. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve.”
The biggest share of Vinitaly 2023 participants came from the United States, which this year was significantly ahead of Germany, #2. Great Britain retained third place, while China moved back to fourth, overtaking Canada. While the European market is generally growing, operators from leading markets outside the EU were also attracted to Verona: the number of visitors from Asia more than doubled (+116%) thanks to the return of the Chinese (over 1,000 visitors) and Japan (+143%). North and South America showed +38% with excellent results: in particular the USA (+45%) and Brazil (+46%), as well as the further consolidation of Canada (+19%). Even distant and self-sufficient Australia showed a three-digit figure: +130%.
The experts of Drinks+ media group were glad to observe the expansion of the Italian forum. We have been collaborating with Vinitaly as media partners for more than a dozen years, witnessing the dynamics of this expo’s development. This year, for the second time in a row, we presented our new international Wine Travel Awards project and the spring “Special issue of the WTA guide” at our stand at the Verona fair. The buzz created by the WTA nominations for wineries and wine travel projects from those countries, as well as the growing activity of their national wine promotion institutions, contributed to the representation of Armenia, Moldova, Austria, Argentina, and the Balkan countries. This year, unlike the previous ones, the number of visitors and exhibitors from these countries has increased significantly.
We would also like to note the brilliant work of the organizers of Vinitaly in strengthening the educational content of the forum. Every event, every tasting, every detail of the exhibition contributed to attracting a huge international audience. One the fair’s most outstanding events was the prestigious Vinitaly opening wine ball – OperaWine 2023, where 130 producers from all over Italy presented their gems. The star list of the winemakers was, as ever, very impressive, so I will allow myself to recall some of the favorite wines and names presented this year: Allegrini | Corvina Veronese La Poja 2015; Ferrari Trento | Extra Brut Trento Riserva Lunelli 2015; Cusumano | Etna Alta Mora Guardiola 2016; Ornellaia | Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2011; Masi | Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Campolongo di Torbe 2007; Masottina | Extra Dry Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore RDO Rive di Ogliano 2019; Masseria Li Veli | Aleatico Salento Passito 2008; Mastroberardino | Taurasi Stilèma Riserva 2016; Monte del Frà | Custoza Superiore Cà del Magro 2019; Donnafugata | Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé 2012; G. D. Vajra | Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2012; Guido Berlucchi Franciacorta Franco Ziliani Riserva 2008; Il Poggione | Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Paganelli Riserva 2004; Marchesi Antinori | Umbria White Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala 2020; Marchesi di Barolo | Barolo Sarmassa 2003; Marchesi Frescobaldi | Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2018, etc.
Another incredible event of Vinitaly 2023, Bacco Divino, caused a sensation this year — the premiere of the double exhibition of two painting masterpieces submitted by the Uffizi Gallery: “Bacchus” by Caravaggio and “Young Bacchus” by Guido Reni. This artistic event, where business and art came together (just the way it works with wine!) took place on the grounds of Veronafiere to celebrate the artistic heritage of Italy, which has always been closely connected to wine culture.
Let me remind you that “Bacchus” by Caravaggio (1596-1597) is a painting depicting a young god of wine sinking in hedonism. According to Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery, Caravaggio’s Bacchus is not so simple — he “holds a glass, which is an invitation to enjoy, but not to overdo it. A truly Aristotelian Bacchus.” The image of “Young Bacchus” (1620) by Guido Reni is more classical, while the god himself is even younger and friendlier, but, again, tempting with the joys of life.
“Vinitaly is an outstanding event in the world of wine, it promotes the Italian system of values to open up to new markets. For the first time, we have combined fine art with the wine industry sector thanks to the exhibition successfully featuring these two famous works,” commented Italian Minister of Agriculture Ms. Francesco Lollobrigida on Bacco Divino.
Il Vino in Villa, a chamber event to which Drinks+ journalists were also invited, turned out to be incredibly atmospheric and cozy. An aperitif and elegant appetizers were waiting for the guests on the flowered lawn in front of the ancient villa in the center of Verona. And then, under the high vaults of the building, where nowadays the Martini Interiors showroom is located, it was possible to dive into further tasting of several dozen Italian wines and specialties, among which the giant pannettone stood out, so appropriate in those pre-Easter days.
And, of course, we cannot ignore our favorite event Vinitaly and the City, which, despite the rather cool weather, as usual, gathered crowds of fans of Italian wines, harmoniously combining with the architecture of Verona – the most romantic city in the world. Wines from different Italian provinces were presented in almost 50 points of the city center in the unique context of architectural and historical monuments. Vinitaly and the City’s events and tastings were held in Piazza dei Signori (Loggia of Fra Giocondo, Loggia Antia, Torre dei Lamberti), Cortile Mercato Vecchio and Cortile del Tribunale. One of the highlights this year, in our opinion, was visiting the Torre dei Lamberti, where guests were treated to exclusive wines and toasts on the tower’s panoramic terrace. I must say that the Lamberti Tower (12th century), piercing the sky high above Piazza delle Erbe, is one of the most attractive sights of the city, included in the UNESCO heritage list. From a height of 84 meters (275 feet), one can enjoy a 360-degree view of the historic center of Verona. And for those who are more attracted not by heights, but by depths, the organizers introduced a tasting of the amazing Akènta Sub – spumante aged down in the sea near the coast of Sardinia, at the depth of 40 meters.
However, this year Vinitaly and the City offered not only to enjoy watching architectural masterpieces and taste wines, but also to listen to them. At least, the guests of the holiday were taught to recognize sparkling wine not by tasting, but by “listening to it”, by a special method developed by Tommaso Caporale and based on the sound of bubbles in the glass.
Another original location of Vinitaly and the City was an improvised bar from the Association of Italian Bartenders, where the leading bartenders of the country competed for the popularity of visitors, preparing original cocktails with martini, prosecco, and Asti wines. Of course, we couldn’t go past the latter, because in our opinion, the light and fresh sparkling Asti DOCG is the best match for this city celebration.
And definitely during the evening walk in Verona, we were impressed and maybe a little shocked by a truly futuristic scene: a couple of smiling policemen were welcoming guests to the tasting. When we got closer, it turned out to be a tasting of the Guappa Petrone Police liqueur presented at last year’s Vinitaly 2022 — an official product created by the state police in cooperation with Antica Distilleria Petrone. This is an original limited release of cream liqueur (brandy and buffalo milk with DOP status from Campania), which wears the colors of the police together with the colors of the national tricolor and broadcasts a message about responsible consumption: each bottle bears the slogan – “If I drive – I don’t drink; If I drink, I don’t drive.”
Another unique, purely Veronese manifestation of synergy which is worth mentioning is the institutional campaign In Vino Virtus – Change Your Drinking, Save Your Life. This is the first joint initiative in Europe aimed at moderating the consumption of wine and preventing the consumption of alcohol while driving initiated by Veronafiere, the State Police and the Italian Wine Union. Ideal collaboration allows all participants, in particular the state police, to very tactfully and unobtrusively convey an important idea: moderate and responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages is based on knowledge of the product, its high quality, and by no means on quantity. The message is conveyed not by boring lectures, but by means of festive, almost artistic activities, where agents of the Verona Police Headquarters and the traffic police communicate with guests in the city squares, in historic buildings and on the grounds of the exhibition center. And in whatever capacity the police officers appear before the guests of the city – on horseback, on foot or next to the fabulous Lamborghini Huracán, donated to the State Police for conducting operational activities and transporting blood and organs – they demonstrate that they are ready to provide any advice on road safety. The agents use two interesting driving simulators: Ready2Go (with the help of the device traffic police operators provide such a luxurious and unprecedented opportunity to those who want to experience the feeling of driving in a state of altered consciousness under the influence of alcohol) and Ghepard Maranello, a very advanced device with which extreme driving skills are usually trained. However, in these circumstances it is used to obtain valuable safe driving advice from police professionals. And although it does not sound very attractive, some people are tempted by such a test behind the wheel of the famous Lamborghini, on a track wet from the rain and with various obstacles – assisted by a police officer. Vinitaly’s police officers (more loyal to drinkers) also offer alcohol tests, accompanied by helpful tips to avoid the devastating effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
Apart from the police, this year the creative team of Veronafiere also daringly engaged the Ministry of Defense of Italy in the promotion of Italian wine! This collaboration was announced personally by Italy’s Minister of Defense, Mr. Guido Crosetto, during his visit to the 55th Vinitaly: in July, the most famous training ship of the Italian Navy, Amerigo Vespucci, which is considered to be the most beautiful sailing ship in the world, together with Vinitaly will go to the world tour to jointly promote the excellence of Italian wines in the biggest cities at all five continents. The Minister of Defense commented on this extraordinary event: “Our domestic companies asked us to help promote the image of Italy abroad – and now the government will achieve this with the help of the Ministry of Defense. Starting July 1st and for two consecutive years, Amerigo Vespucci will embark on a world tour, stopping at every continent, showcasing the best of Made in Italy. Veronafiere will join this project and accompany us on a Navy ship, helping to promote Italian excellence abroad.”
“It is a great honor for Vinitaly,” said Federico Bricolo regarding the large-scale promotion, “to climb aboard Vespucci and contribute to the promotion of wine as a true flagship product of Italy.” This new initiative strengthens our development plan aimed at a permanent advertising platform coordinated with partners and able to attract not only market investment for Italian products, but also increase tourist flows to Italian land.”
In addition, precisely in order to fulfill the communication and image mission announced by the leaders of Veronafiere, almost immediately after the end of the exhibition in Verona, Vinitaly went to China: the first event took place on April 11 in Chengdu, then (on April 14) the Italians moved to Shenzhen, with their own pavilion at Hainan Government Fair, and for tasting and presentation of Italy during Wine to Asia (May 11-13) together with ICE Trade Agency and Altagamma Foundation. By the preliminary estimates, the Veronafiere international event in Shenzhen attracted more than 450 exhibitors from 20 countries.
The next forum in Verona is scheduled for April 14-17, 2024.
And I will share one more impression from this year’s visit to Vinitaly — or rather, a lifehack for those who are going to visit Veronafiere. After all, everyone knows that having a relaxed and quiet meal at such a hub, or even calling a taxi, may be a whimsical adventure that might take at least a couple of hours. But from this year everything has changed: if you cross the highway on which the exhibition center is located and walk a hundred meters along VIALE DELL’ AGRICOLTURA, you will see a round building similar to a large rotunda on the left in the middle of the square – the new location of EATALY. And although this establishment could not be found on Google maps while I was writing this text (actually, the store has an address – via Santa Teresa, 12, and the location is still not specified on the map), but Drinks+ gives a hint to its readers: here is a powerful gastrohub with several excellent food courts, Agricolo restaurant, exhibition spaces and delicatessen shops. And the best thing is that, after intense shopping, you can easily call a taxi here and, sitting comfortably in the seat, go to your destination past the less fortunate colleagues who do not read Drinks+ and continue to stand in line for a taxi under the walls of Veronafiere.