Contempt: Italissima “big mess” at Vinexpo in Bordeaux

Above: Produced by Carlo Ponti, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 Contempt, based on Alberto Moravia’s novel, Il Disprezzo, was an Italian and French co-production. The results were decidedly better than last week’s Italissima at Vinexpo in Bordeaux.

It would have been enough that Franco rightly chastised his French counterpart and longtime sparring partner Michel Bettane for the selection of Bordeaux-inspired Italian wines to be presented in Bettane’s seminars at last week’s Italissima, a would-be Italian wine fair held in Bordeaux in conjunction with but with no official affiliation to Vinexpo, the annual see-and-be-seen French wine trade fair.

“Instead of calling it, ‘Italissima, the Italy that you love,’” wrote Franco, “they should have called it ‘Italissima, the Italy that they love,” where the ‘they’ stands for presumptuous French critics who do not know the real Italy of wine. In fact, they don’t understand it at all and they wouldn’t understand even if they seriously tried to study it…”

Wouldn’t the French be offended, asked one commenter to Franco’s post rhetorically, if Italians were to present French wines made with Italian varieties as authentically French?

But making matters worse was a slew of reports and blog posts about how Italissima participants were left sadly disappointed by lackluster turnout and poor organization. One Italian blogger called it a pasticciaccio brutto, borrowing from the title of Gadda’s 1957 novel Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulano written in Roman dialect (That Awful Mess on Via Merulana).

Adding insult to injury, the French daily Sud Ouest called the event the “pavillion de la discorde,” a “monster,” and a case of “parasitism,” where the organizers were trying illicitly trying to piggy back on the exposure of Vinexpo just 200 meters down the road.

There was an even a report of wine destined for Italissima being hidden by Vinexpo organizers and a claim by the Italissima organizer that she had been attacked by one of the Vinexpo organizers.

Some of the greatest movies ever made were the French and Italian co-productions of the 1960s, like Godard’s Contempt. Maybe it’s best if dreamers of French and Italian partnership stick to movie-making.

6 thoughts on “Contempt: Italissima “big mess” at Vinexpo in Bordeaux

  1. Dear Sir,
    I appreciate your ironical way to talk about the sometimes difficult relationship between French and Italians… just to be precise Sud Ouest reported what Vinexpo CEO Beynat’s version but the journalist was clearly not convinced by him and for the following days Sud Ouest reported only on “off” events and concluded saying that Vinexpo management will take two days to discuss about the future of this fair and why “off” events are considered by visitors far more interesting that what takes place inside
    Kind regards

  2. One huge disappointment. A continuation of the antagonism put forth by parties who live to perpetuate conflict and loathing.

  3. I don’t know the history behind the Ziliani-Bettane conflicts, but the attck to Italissima appears to me rather disproportionate. The selection of Italian producers could be better but each selection has an element of discretionality and the range of producers present there was of very good quality (Voerzio, Vajra, Parusso, Albino Rocca for Piemonte; Felsina, Pacenti, Michele Satta and more for Toscana; and Ca’ del Bosco, Borgo del Tiglio etc..). In addition, the offer to be present there was sent to a very large range of producers (some were present in the main fair).

    It is clear that finally something went wrong, but I consider the initiative a positive sign, and a very good opportunity for those present at the main fair to taste a good palette of Italian wines.

    Unfortunately most have not profited from this opportunity. Pity for them, and especially for the producers present and victims of lack of visibility.

    regarding the “guided tastings” Bettane-Vizzari, there has been a couple with some bordealais wines, one in particular where San Leonardo, Montevetrano and Sassicaia (1998) were confronted with pape Clement, mouton Rothschild (2005) and Trotanoy (2000). Interesting exercise, at least to verify that Sassicaia was the least interesting of the whole bunch….

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