Sun 10 Apr 2011

The Vinitalian Job


Early evening in the Piazza dell'Erbe, Verona

Temperatures reaching 32*C; 12 pavilions with thousands of wines from every corner, nook and cranny of Italy; a buzz on the midnight streets of a city with not a hint of bad behaviour … it must be Vinitaly in Verona.

To experience Vinitaly (once through the crush of thousands of people trying to get through ridiculously small and few entrance gates – grrr!) is to take a glorious tasting tour of this beautiful country. From the purity of Alto Adige to the richness of Puglia and from the elegance of Etna to the patience-worthiness of Barolo, there is so much diversity and such great value for money to be had.

We visited firm members’ favourites, several of whom are really on song including:


Sebastian Payne MW discussing rosato 2010 with Stefano Garofano of Monaci

  • Joseph Hofstätter (Alto Adige) with the freshest pinot bianco around
  • Fontodi (Chianti) whose vineyards are certified from the 2008 vintage (although have been working organically since 2001)
  • Allegrini (Veneto) – fantastic freshness from a difficult 2010 vintage for Valpolicella
  • Contesa (Abruzzo) – great Pecorino as ever
  • Barberani (Orvieto) – celebrating their 50th vintage
  • Monaci (Puglia) – from the best value Copertino we know to the depth and warmth of Le Braci.

Keep your eyes on the just-published list too for newer, lesser-known wines such as Falanghina and Aglianico from the La Guardiense cooperative in Campania, or elegant and perfumed wines from native grapes at the Nicosia estate on the sides of Mount Etna.

I have enjoyed joining Sebastian for a two-day exploration of this potted version of Italy tasting over 200 wines from around 40 growers, both well-known and up-and-coming. We firmly believe that the quality of The Society’s Italian offering at the moment is hard to beat for breadth, depth and value for money. Come taste and see!

Categories : Italy


  1. Bolognese wines: a yawning gap in the catologue?

    As we were leaving a restaurant near Parma where we’d gone to sample their famous Culatello (the ham that beats ordinary prosciutto facedown), we bumped into the Italian buyer for a famous Bristol wine merchant. Why couldn’t I buy wines from Bologna in England, I wanted to know. Breezily dismissive, he explained that the quality was poor and the yields too small to bother with. Is that the Wine Society’s view too?

    I’ve been writing an account of Bologna and its food and wine for the past three years, having visited the place since the early 70s, and I’ve seen how standards have risen in wine production. I’m not alone in this view. ‘The hills around Bologna, the Colli Bolognesi, now produce some very respectable Cabernet, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc’, write Johnson and Robinson (World Atlas of Wine (2007, p.166). Come with me, on your next trip to northern Italy, to visit two or three of my favourite vineyards.

    That’s a serious invitation. We’ll sample Cabernet, Barbera and Merlot at Tenuta Bonzara and Bologna’s favourite aperitivo, pignoletto frizzante, at Letizia Gaggioli’s estate near Zola Predosa.

    My new ebook, Foodlovers’ Bologna, with reviews, interviews and recipes can be downloaded from
    Martin Yarnit

    • Sebastian Payne says:

      Thanks for your invitation. I too eat in Bologna, and in Mantua too for that matter, whenever I have the chance. When there I usually find very good bottles of barbera and sometimes sangiovese or on a hot day a dry Lambrusco. The Wine Society does not go to Italy for the ubiquitous cabernet and merlot. At the moment the good local barberas and sangioveses are usually beaten on value by wines from elsewhere, but I’ll keep my eyes open. There will be a decent inexpensive Lambrusco on its way. Sebastian Payne

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