Vinitaly is the largest wine exhibition in the galaxy. I mean, at least I think so. I actually can’t find any data on that, but I think it probably is. It’s a huge deal. Every wine (and liquor) maker in Italy and many from other countries come together in Verona once a year, for four days, and writers, journalists, industry professionals, and the public come to swirl, swish, and spit (or swallow).

95,000 square meters of exhibition space and  4,255 exhibitors welcomed 140,655 thirsty visitors in April for Vinitaly 2013. I was interested in going, but not interested in paying the 50 euros (approx. 65 dollars) required to get in. A friend suggested I try to get a press pass. No way, I thought, I’m no journalist. But the Vinitaly website allowed reporters sent by news outlets or papers, or the publishers of wine-related websites, to apply for press passes. I thought, well, I don’t have a wine-related website, but I do have an Italy/Events in Europe website.  And literally DOZENS of people read it every month (you guys), so why not give it a shot?

I was already a week late to ask, but I wrote the lady and said I am the writer and publisher of the website that you are reading right now and could I please get two press passes for my and my “assistant/photographer/interpreter”? (Really, my friend). Sure enough, she wrote back confirming that I’d have two press passes waiting for me at will call, and access to the press lounge.

I can’t even tell you how cool I thought this was! Now I know how my journalist friends must feel all the time. Like, this is what fame must taste like. A press pass to Vinitaly! Access to a press lounge!!

That weekend, I was staying in Lonigo, a small town about 40 minutes from Verona. We took a train that morning to Verona instead of driving because a) we knew parking would be hopeless, and b) we also knew that there would be a red-rover circle of Italian polizia around Verona just waiting for people to pull out of Vinitaly after drinking all day. And this is when I found out that the legal limit for DUIs in Italy is a low .05%! You learn something new every day.

We got off the train in Verona and got on the free shuttle to Vinitaly (I was impressed with this. An actual customer service that was on time and reliable, for free, in Italy)!  We got there and found the will-call desk. I tried to look totally blasé and cool, but really I afraid that at any minute they’d discover I am a total fraud and send me to the end of the line with all the proletariat. But then I thought, actually maybe I deserve a press pass. After all, I DO publish this website and it IS about Italy. Those are the only stated criteria so, I actually qualify for this!

After we got the passes, we headed for the press lounge to check our coats. All I wanted to know was, were there going to be snacks.

No snacks, but there WAS good coffee, and water. After a quick coffee, we went to the pavilions.

The pavilions were all separated into the regions of Italy. And each one was enormous. We consulted the map and decided to definitely visit Sicily, Puglia, Tuscany, Lazio, Veneto, Piemonte, and whatever else was on the way between them. Walking into a pavilion, you didn’t know where to start. So we picked either left… or right. And spent the day sipping wine (and swallowing it), people-watching, eating crackers (and ham sandwiches, narrowly avoiding an international mayonnaise incident (I do not tolerate mayonnaise)), laughing, having a good time, and at least in my case, pretending we knew what we were talking about.

I’m no wine expert, and I didn’t become one at Vinitaly. I can tell if a wine is really tasty (and I tasted a lot of delicious wine that weekend), or gross, or heavy or light or whatever. I can tell if I like one more than another one. I can discern certain notes. But I just cannot figure out why one wine is 15 euros and another is 40 for example.

My approach to buying wine is: I’d be willing to buy a 50 euro bottle of wine if it is 5 times better than a 10 euro bottle of wine. 20 euros if it is twice as good, etc. I tasted some delicious wines, and some were expensive, and some were cheap! I just don’t get it. I actually am kind of interested in taking a whole class on this stuff. I’d really like to understand this. Do you all have any thoughts on this?

We left at about closing time, taking the shuttle back to the train station and then the train back to Lonigo. I remember thinking, “What a thoroughly Italian day. Glass of wine after glass of wine, everyone dressed fashionably, good snacks, and two train rides between gorgeous ancient cities. I would like to go back next year. Maybe I’ll understand wine by then!

Here are some pictures, all taken with the Blackberry (forgive me):

Follow the red carpet to all the wine you can taste. This woman doesn't even know where to start.

Follow the red carpet to all the wine you can taste. This woman doesn’t even know where to start.

I couldn't believe all this was free! (Thanks to this blog!)

I couldn’t believe all this was free! (Thanks to this blog!)

Do any Americans know who this is? (Al Bano)

Do any Americans know who this is? (Al Bano)


What do you all think of wine? Why is one wine much more expensive than another? Should I learn more about wine or should I focus on my true love, cheese? If you’re a wine lover, what’s your favorite wine and where is it from? If you’re an Italophile, where is the best wine tasting around? I really want to know!