Italy Day 4: finalmente, Vini Veri!

Above: tasters nap in the springtime sun outside Villa Boschi where the Vini Veri tasting was held again this year. I don’t know why but my day at Vini Veri made me think of the northern Italian folk song “L’uva fogarina”: “Quant’è bella l’uva fogarina, quant’è bello saperla vendemmiar!” (The Fogarina grape is so good! So good for the pickin’!). See below…

Let’s face it: we all go to Vinitaly every year because we have to: by the second day of the massive trade and consumer fair, the pavilions are a slosh of deal-making, true and otherwise would-be wine professionals, the occasional parasitic wine writer, and a sea of reveling imbibers who show up to get their drink on. Every year, the same parties, the same dinners, the same 45-minute back-and-forth drive from Verona because who can afford a $700-a-night room downtown? Well, I can’t.

But a breath of fresh air awaits those true lovers of real wine who attend the increasing number of satellite, alternative fairs. My favorite is the Vini Veri tasting, held at the Villa Boschi in the heart of the Veronese heartland (Isola della Scala township).

Above: I was captivated by Dario Princic’s whites, all of them macerated with skin contact, like this Pinot Grigio (in the photo). Few realize that Pinot Grigio is a red grape — a light red, but red nonetheless. It was the Santa Margherita white Pinot Grigio craze (which began more than 25 years ago) that made Pinot Grigio a white grape. Princic’s wines are fantastic.


Dario Princic (Friuli, see above, his Tocai was among the best I’ve ever tasted), Vodopivec (Friuli, I tasted some aged Vodopivec Vitovska later on in the trip and will report in an upcoming post), Coste Piane (Veneto, Prosecco aged sur lies and fermented using metodo classico – double-fermented in bottle – in magnum, freakin’ killer), Monte dall’Ora (Veneto, great Valpolicella and his top Amarone is off-the-charts good, need to taste with Brooklynguy) and, of course, Paolo Bea (the inimitable producer of Sagrantino).

But that’s not to exclude so many awesome producers who make natural, real wines: Cappellano, Trinchero, Rinaldi (Giuseppe), Cos, just to name a few (Maria Teresa Mascarello was not at Vini Veri this year).

Above: Gianpiero Bea of Paolo Bea. Gianpiero is one of the founders of Vini Veri.

Dario Princic told me that there is a movement within Vini Veri to reunite with the splinter group Vinatur and the Triple A tasting next year: the idea is that of organizing a fair at the Vicenza fair grounds with 200-250 producers, a fair that “could truly rival Vinitaly,” Dario said.

When I asked Gianpiero Bea about this, he didn’t seem too pleased.

Above: it was great to see my old friends Steve and Sita, high-school sweethearts (they met on an exchange program in Spain), married to this day, with two beautiful daughters. Sita’s friend Giovanni Baschieri got me my first gig in Padua way back in 1987!

My college roommate (from my first year at the Università di Padova) Steve Muench (above left) and his wife Sita Saviolo (above center) drove down from Padua to taste with me. I saw them a few times on this trip and they even made it up to Ljubljana to see Nous Non Plus perform there.

I can’t recommend Vini Veri enough: if you have the chance next year, be sure to make it down there. To me Vini Veri represents a mix of all the best things about Italy: real wine, real people… winemaking as ideology, winemaking that expresses place… heavily-left-leaning politics and homegrown, grassroots organizing… Vini Veri is a wine fair that even Pier Paolo Pasolini would be proud of (especially in the light of his Friulian origins, since so many great Friulian producers present their wines there). Does anyone remember Poesie a Casarsa?

Even if you don’t understand Italian (or Friulian dialect), check out the images in this short on the collection of poetry that won Pasolini fame at an early age:

There are many versions of L’uva fogarina on YouTube but I liked this one the best. Most believe the Fogarina grape to be a type of Lambrusco found near the town of Gualtieri in Emilia. Something about that beautiful spring day in the middle of the fields made me think of L’uva fogarina. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination…