Italy meets the Vancouver International Wine Festival
16 italian companies made the trek to Vancouver proudly waving the Italian flag. Producers from Piemonte, Toscana, Emilia-Romagna and Sicilia with a particularly strong contingent from the Veneto formed a small but united group
The 37th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival featured Australia as the theme country with Syrah/Shiraz being the global focus. This did not provide much opportunity for Italy to steal the spotlight. Nevertheless, 16 companies made the trek to Vancouver proudly waving the Italian flag. Producers from Piemonte, Toscana, Emilia-Romagna and Sicilia with a particularly strong contingent from the Veneto formed a small but united group in a corner of the grand tasting room.
Despite being the underdog, the Italian section drew in a crowd of both trade and consumers. The wine darlings of Prosecco (Anna Spinato, Collavini, Giusti and Mionetto) and Amarone (Montresor, Monte del Frà, Sant’Antonio and Zenato) were unsurprisingly popular. And, by the time I made it to Damilano’s table they didn’t have a single drop of Barolo left. But attendees ventured beyond these better known wines, sampling off the beaten track gems like Pagadebit Romagna DOC and Nerello Mascalese from Sicilia. It was genuinely heartening to see a curious and excited throng around Cleto Chiarli’s Lambrusco booth. While Vancouver’s trade has embraced this unique red sparkler, Lambrusco still needs to win back consumers. The seduction has begun.
And how was the festival from the producers’ perspective? Damilano’s Commercial Director Maurizio Arduino who has attended in the past views it as a "very important festival because people now recognize the brand". He was also impressed by the number of serious buyers and restaurant professionals in the room. Dott. Marica Bonomo from Monte del Frà has been a loyal supporter of the British Columbia market and she believes that "the culture has grown up". Seconding her opinion, Marketing Director Marco Toti from Rocca delle Macìe noted that there is "good knowledge especially among the trade".
As for the consumers in attendance, Toti goes onto remark that while they may be less knowledgeable, they make up for this with enthusiasm. Serena Fraccaroli Marketing Director at Cantine Riondo called the consumers clever and felt that "people are interested in understanding". I observed attendees confusing Barolo and Amarone but the patient and generous spirit of the Italians came through. Principles took the time to explain the difference and pointed people in the direction of where they could try these wines in order to taste this for themselves. "It is amazing being able to see their curiosity about the various varieties and regions," commented Nicole Poggi in charge of branding and export sales for Poderi Nespoli. She also stated that "the idea of educating consumers is very important". I concur. This is definitely the next step and crucial for Italy to capitalize on the momentum.
And the opportunity is there. As the festival drew to a close, the theme country for next year was announced. In 2016 Italy will take centre stage.