Vinitaly, the show
April 18, 2017
I recently came back from the Vinitaly in Verona, the three day event dedicated to Italian wine. I haven't seen the official numbers yet and even if the organization says that visitors are up, I did see and was told by some of my friends exhibiting, that this year, there were less people, professionals and non.
In a fair that provides a snapshot of the Italian wine industry and trends this year a lot of effort was made in the preparation of the stands, especially the biggest producers, not only with brand new stands, but many of them shouting environmentally friendly and family and tradition messages, wine has suddenly become more than just the liquid in the bottle, is the people behind, the cultivation methods, this was the year in which the producers became storytellers. Walking along the fair there was a striking contrast between shiny new stands and old ones, big, gigantic stalls and a single person desk in the consortium stand, invitation only stands and stands open to everyone, this is and has always been Vinitaly.
But 2017 was also Vinitaly 51st anniversary, last year they put together an amazing show to celebrate their 50th anniversary, with plenty of events, including an amazing dinner in an amazing venue, the Arena, that I was privileged to attend, but despite what the organizers say, I see the fair in need of a revamp and new directions.
Together with one of our producers, I was invited to attend an award ceremony, our producer was one of the winners, and like all awards ceremony there were several speeches including one from the president of Vinitaly, the celebration has also been used to present a book about Vinitaly from the very first edition to what the future holds, and one of the main messages from the president was that they wanted to celebrate their 50+1 anniversary, not the 51st, and the reason behind was to emphasise the start of a new era for Vinitaly, to me though, it sounded like a vain old lady, refusing to accept her age. Celebrating the 51st anniversary is looking forward to the future, adding candles to the cake, but without forgetting or ignoring the past.
Vinitaly is a party, a show, and as such is fun to be part of, but it is losing its real reasons, the reasons producers of any size attend it. Every year, more and more producers, especially small and medium ones, do not attend the fair, from a cost/benefit analysis, they consider it to be too expensive. This year, one of our producers noticed that there was more space between stands without realising that the halls were the same as last year. More and more alternative fairs are taking place around the Vinitaly, costing less and targeting specific markets, natural wines, real wines only to mention a couple, taking exhibitors and visitors away from the main show, exhibitors wants to sell wine and visitors buy it, and Vinitaly does not do it anymore.
I love Vinitaly and cant wait to attend next year event, but unless it goes back to its origins and the real reasons why it has been created, why exhibitors and visitors are attending it, I can’t see vinitaly lasting another 50 years.
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ROBERT JOSEPH 04/18/2017 13:39 PM
Big events of any nature have to evolve while remaining true to themselves. And yes, Vinitaly faces a growing number of competitive events, but to be fair, it is changing. There is now a sizeable organic section and one in which natural wines were prominent. The Vinitaly Academy is also certainly a clever initiative, creating ambassadors for both Italian wine in general and the Vinitaly brand.
I've been attending Vinitaly for over 30 of its 51 years and my memories of the earlier years may be less rosy than some other peoples's. I remember when spittoons were almost impossible to obtain and when producers used to drag you into closed rooms to taste their wines - very slowly. I remember when it was harder to get a decent lunch and - even - harder to get in. I also remember when there wasn't an app to help me find my way around - an app that now theoretically helps me to find winners from the new 5 Star tastings (of which, to declare an interest, I am a chairman.
To sum up, I'm not sure what Vinitaly's original reasons to exist were, how they differ from the way it is run today and - most crucially - whether those original reasons would actually be appropriate to the market as it is in 2017 (a very different place from the 1980s).
ANDREA 04/24/2017 11:44 AM
Hello Robert, sorry for the late response but I have been away. Yes, I am aware of the initiatives you mention, however, Vinitaly was forced to introduce them because of all the other fairs, same for the wine competition, Vinitaly had become too much of a show and stopped being a business event, but how many of those medals are shown? how many other wine competition more important than the 5 star tasting there are? The original reasons behind Vinitaly, and these are the same for Bordeaux or Frankfurt, are connecting producers with buyer, technologies have changed the way we all do business, however, producers go to the fair hoping and wanting to meet new buyers, and these are as actual as they always been. Vinitaly could be more business oriented still keeping the show biz, I only been there 17 of the last 51 years and I can think of several initiatives that will not copy what is already available, but will make others to copy Vinitaly