VERONA, 1 april – Wine buyers and enthusiasts flocked to the VinItaly trade fair this week in Verona, keen to gain an insight, make an order and get a taste of the next big thing in Italian wine. VinItaly is one of the biggest wine fairs in the world and this year attracted over 140,000 visitors.
A particularly popular part of the fair was the ViViT exposition dedicated to the world of organic and biodynamic wine where long queues formed all week as visitors vied for the opportunity to taste a range of Italy’s best biodynamic wines. The exposition, a first in the event’s 46-year history, is the brainchild of a small group of biodynamic winemakers led by three Lucchesi producers: Giuseppe Ferrua of the Fabbrica San Martino, Saverio Petrilli from the Tenuta di Valgiano and Gabriele da Prato of Podere Concori.
“It is really satisfying to see that there is great interest in real wines, natural wines that you don’t get tired of,” said Gabriele da Prato, a certified biodynamic winemaker who grows in the Garfagnana region.
The great interest in the ViViT event was backed by data released this week from a study by VinItaly organisers and market researchers UniCab showing an increasing preference, especially among younger (under 35) wine drinkers towards lighter, organic wines and wines with low levels of sulfites.
Giuseppe Ferrua, winemaker at the historic estate Fabbrica San Martino on the hills overlooking Lucca said he was very satisfied with the event’s success. “Lucca has one of the highest concentrations of biodynamic winemakers in Italy, and they are having great success with consumers,” he said.
Over recent years an increasing number of winemakers both in Italy and abroad have been turning to biodynamic viticulture. Philosopher Rudolph Steiner developed the theory of biodynamic agriculture in the 1920s as a response to concerns about a general impoverishment of soils and the overuse of industrial agricultural practices. His theories require the use of organic preparations to increase soil fertility as well as adherence to certain esoteric ideas (often known as anthroposophy) regarding energy, celestial influences and the vision of a farm as a self-sustaining micro-world. Biodynamic winemakers employ these ideas to varying degrees, although as a general rule of thumb most use no pesticides or chemicals on their vineyards apart from some copper and sulfur for disease control, no added yeasts to ferment their grapes and very low levels of sulfites (used as a preservative) in their wines. Many biodynamic producers believe this leads to a more faithful representation of that magical blend of tradition and environment in wine known as ‘terroir’.
Although biodynamic agriculture has been a reality for many producers for years (and indeed for many it represents a way of life), it has only recently become a lucrative marketing label in the wine world, as the ViViT success proves. Mr Ferrua said however that organisers had been careful to screen exhibitors. “Producers have auto-certified themselves that they are either organic or biodynamic, and there is testing of tasting samples to make sure no-one is jumping on the bandwagon without having the prerequisites,” he said.
In the Tuscany pavilion of Vinitaly, the general wine sector of Lucca and Montecarlo was also well represented in a stand sponsored by local producers Fattoria Colle Verde, Fattoria di Fubbiano, Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani, Società Agricola Pieve S.Stefano, Tenuta Lenzini, Azienda Agricola La Badiola, Fattoria del Teso, Fattoria La Torre, Fattoria Michi, Fattoria Montechiari and Fattoria Selmi Annamaria. Gino ‘Fuso’ Carmignani, president of the Montecarlo winemakers’ consortium, was on hand and said that the response had been excellent to the wines available for tasting. “The numbers have been sensational this year, much more than we were expecting,” he said, adding that quality was proving to be a key factor in the promotion of small wine-producing areas like Lucca and Montecarlo.
Lucchese artisan brewers also attracted interest. Master brewer Iacopo Lenci of the Brùton brewery said that he was very pleased with the reception for his products from the numerous international and Italian buyers present. After just six years of operation, he said, the brewery was already exporting 35% of its production overseas.
This reflects a growing trend in Italian wine and alcohol exports that despite the recession has had a bumper year. Figures released this week by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) to coincide with Vinitaly showed that Italian wine exports rose 12% in value and 9% in volume in 2011, increasing Italy’s market share of international wine exports from 21.8 al 24.3% between 2010 to 2011.