An American in Brescia and “una fiera di merda”

Above: A repast of hard-boiled eggs, piada (savory Lombard flatbread, akin to Emilia’s piadina), housemade gardiniera, and “peperoni bresciani,” brined “peperoni lombardi” that have been tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and freshly grated Grana Padano.

It’s not easy to describe the utter fatigue that comes with Vinitaly — for the exhibitors and fair-goers alike. For folks like me and Alfonso (who’s been coming to the Italian wine trade fair for 30+ years), you make the trans-Atlantic journey and then you hit the ground running as you attempt to fit in as many meetings and tastings as possible from early in the morning through dinner and beyond.

On the eve of the last day of the fair, I headed with my good friend Giovanni (who showed his wines at the fair) to Brescia, where we decompressed over dinner at the Trattoria Gasparo and later back at Giovanni’s place with a bottle of Camossi Franciacorta (vinified and disgorged by him) paired with Francis Lai and Truffaut.

Above: Valtènesi (Garda) Chiaretto was one of the last DOCs to be approved by Italian authorities before the EU’s CMO reforms of the Italian appellation system went into effect. At dinner we drank Giovanni’s brother-in-law Luca Pasini’s Chiaretto, made primarily with Groppello and macerated with skin contact for “one night,” hence the wine’s subtitle, “vino di una notte.”

According to a press release issued by the fair’s organizer VeronaFiere, “Vinitaly won its gamble and earned the satisfaction of exhibitors, with an increase of professional visitors from abroad and especially from the Italian horeca (hotel/restaurant/catering) channel.”

There may be strength in record numbers but the truth is that the execution of the fair was thoroughly disastrous.

On Sunday and Monday, when attendance hit its peak, a mishap with the wifi network at the fair caused fair-goers to lose all cellular service. As a result, you couldn’t call, text, or message in any format.

And because, once again, the organizers failed to address parking and congestion issues, fair-goers and exhibitors spent up to 1.5 hours every night just trying to leave the grounds.

Nearly every producer I visited with told me privately, è stata una fiera di merda (it’s been a shitty fair).

But despite the logistical challenges, my personal Vinitaly was rewarding and I have many tales to tell.

And, thankfully, the aches and weariness of an American in Brescia were soothed by the bubbles and saltiness of Giovanni’s Franciacorta and a tune from the year that Vinitaly and I were born…

Today I’m in Tuscany for a few meetings and Saturday I head to Friuli for the COF2012 blogger project. Stay tuned…