Vinitaly: What to Know Before You Go
Vinitaly is the World’s largest wine expo for wine entrepreneurs, distributers, sommeliers, bloggers, restauranteurs, and other wine-related professionals. Located in the picturesque city of Verona in Northern Italy, Vinitaly is an event that is not to be missed. Prior to 2018, I had always heard of Vinitaly, but I had never experienced the wonder myself. I attended Vinitaly in April, 2018, and my mind was completely blown. The event is almost unfathomably large in terms of products, distributers, and actual surface area (I walked almost 10 kilometers in one day hopping from one hall to the next).
Each year in April, Vinitaly is held at Verona’s fair grounds. With over 4200 wineries ad vendors represented, the event requires research, planning, and a strong passion for wine. Undoubtedly, Vinitaly is a wine-lover’s dream-come-true. However, given the enormity of the event, there are some things you should know before you arrive. Here’s a list of things I learned as a result of preparing for and attending Vinitaly in Verona this year. Please note, this post was done in collaboration with my friend (and fellow Vinitaly-attendee), Kenzie Levey. Kenzie took ALL of these beautiful pictures, and I’m thrilled she as able to document our visit so well!
Vinitaly is a Primarily Italian Wine Festival: Yes, Vinitaly has vendors from all over the world. However, the international hall is extremely small in comparison to the rest of the event. Italian wine is some of the finest in the world. You can try (what feels like) all of it at Vinitaly. Approximately 95% of Vinitaly’s vendors are Italian wineries.
Bart – One of the Sommeliers at Vinitaly (check him out on Instagram @bartsommelieritalia):
Vinitaly Tickets: Tickets (in 2018) were €85 per person for a 1 day pass and €150 for all 4 days. To attend the event, you must be affiliated with a wine-related trade (e.g., sommelier, restaurant owner, shop owner, blogger, etc.). However, if you know someone (anywhere in the world) who is somehow involved in the wine business, they can sign up for a free account and secure up to 4 tickets – so you could always just ask and reimburse them. If you’re a true wine lover, I highly suggest you get tickets. The whole reason they made the event so expensive and for wine-trade individuals only was because of issues with drunk people in the past. Once, Vinitaly was completely free to the public. However, after a series of incidents and notoriously drunken stupor, Vinitaly tightened up their policies. Lastly, if you are PRESS (journalist, newspaper, blog, etc), you can request a FREE four-day pass to Vinitaly. The process is very easy but can take up to 14 days for you to be approved.
Do your Research Before you Arrive: With over 4200 vendors from all around Italy and other areas of the world, one cannot even scratch the surface of this event – even if attending all 4 days. My advice is to do your research in advance. Decide if you want to dig deep into a couple regions of Italian wine, or if you want to try only a few wines from each region. There are wineries of all calibers at Vinitaly. Don’t waste your time with crappy wine – you don’t have to. Figure out a plan, stick to it, and take this opportunity to sample some of Italy’s (and the world’s) finest and most difficult to find wines.
Where and How to Research: Vinitaly’s website offers a plethora of useful information about the philosophy, logistics, and wineries at the festival. Spend time on the website conducting some preliminary research for your visit. Next? Get the Vinitaly app. The app lists every single vendor by country, region, and type of wine. The app also has a map of the event and a location capability that can help you find saved wineries once you arrive.
One Day isn’t Enough (Okay – Four Days isn’t Enough): As I said – this event is HUGE. I attended for only one day this year. I feel like I barely tried any wines. We arrived at 9:30 and left at 5:30 (a full “work” day), and we weren’t even able to walk through all of the halls. If you can swing it, pay the €150 euros and attend for 4 days.
Here is ONE of the Halls – Sardinian Wines:
How to Get to Vinitaly: Consider public transport if you’re coming from outside of Verona. It’s VERY easy. We caught a train to Verona Porta Nuova (main train station), then immediately (and easily) hopped on the Vinitaly free shuttle bus. It dropped us off right in front of the event, and it took only 3-4 minutes to drive. There are multiple free shuttles running all over the city. See the Vinitaly website for more info.
Go Early: Vinitaly is madness – especially during the first two days. Plan to arrive right at 9:30 when the doors open. Your chances of peacefully enjoying some wine are much higher earlier in the day. By noon on the 1st two days, it will be crazy (or “hell on earth” as one winemaker described it).
Or Go on One of the Last Two Days: If you have to pick a day, pick one of the last two days of the festival. By then, the crowds have tremendously died down. I went on the last day, and we never waited in line. We enjoyed thorough and informative tastings. We were totally at peace during our entire visit. Sure, there were thousands and thousands of people, but the grounds are SO gigantic, it didn’t seem too busy. The only downside? Within the last 2 hours of the event on the last day, many of the vendors were closing up shop, especially in the “Food and Beer” hall. This was a bit of a bummer. Next time, I’d just do the food hall earlier in the day – no biggy.
Wear Comfortable Shoes: Like I said: I walked over 10 kilometers hopping from one booth to the next. Attendees were wearing a wide range of attire – from casual to formal (I’d recommend choosing somewhere in between). The one similarity between all attendees (especially those who attended in the past): comfortable shoes.
Pace Yourself: You guys. I know I’ve said this before, but let me say it again. This event is HUGE and there are thousands of wines you can try. Be smart. You don’t have to try every single wine from every winery. There’s huge value in walking around the event itself and simply marveling at the amazing wine stands (many of which are essentially fancy and expensive bars; and some of which are two levels high)! Another strategy? Swish and spit. Really. It’s how the pros get through these events for multiple days, multiple times per year. You can try WAY more wine if you can manage spitting out much of the wine. That’s literally what the dump buckets are there for. No one will look at you weird.
The Cesari Wine Stand:
Bring LOTS of Business Cards: If you are in a wine-related business in any way, bring LOTS of business cards. This event is a wonderful opportunity for networking and getting to know people. You meet all sorts of people, and the majority of the vendors are thrilled to collaborate with a variety of professionals.
Where to Eat: There are multiple places you can eat at the event. However, please note that food is an additional cost (be sure to bring cash). For quick service, visit one of the two main self-services areas. There are also sit down restaurants and quick-and-easy foods (like panini and pizza) which can be found scattered around the event.
You can Stock up on Wine: We saw many people with cases of wine. Apparently you can buy wine at some of the vendors – this is just an FYI in case you want to stock up. I don’t know too much about this or whether you need to contact the wineries in advance about your purchase, but I wanted to share, just in case.
Don’t Worry – There’s Coffee: There are multiple cafes around the event in case you need a little pick-me-up. This isn’t surprising: We are in Italy, after all. Nespresso typically has a large booth. They offer free tastings of their espresso and also have a full bar where coffee is free.
There’s Beer, Too!: Check out the food/beer hall with many different Italian craft breweries. There’s a large range of beers, from fruity summer beers to imperial barrel-aged stouts. All of the beer is also included in your ticket. Near the end of each day, this is where you’ll likely find most of the wine makers and representatives of the wineries (Yes, it’s possible to get wined-out!).
The Beer Hall:
Vinitaly is the Wine-Education Experience of a Life Time: You can get an amazing wine education experience at Vinitaly. There are many classes going on every day (you can find more information on the Vinitaly website). Some are paid and some are not. We stumbled upon a paid course focused on Portuguese wine. If the classes aren’t full, you can typically pop in (in our case, mid-way through) and enjoy the class and tasting for free. Additionally, Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) typically offers complimentary tasting classes all day every day. They are leaders in sommelier education, so I definitely recommend you stop in for a class (or two). Lastly, you’ll learn a lot from each individual wine maker. They are excited to talk about their wines. So if you have questions, ask away!
Taking Notes at a WSET Training:
Stay Overnight in Verona: If you have the chance to stay in Verona during the festival, DO IT!! The city comes alive with all sorts of dining and wine events. BUT make sure you make reservations for any dinners in advance, as most restaurants are sure to fill up.
Well, there you have it: What to Know Before you Go to VINITALY! I hope you found this information useful. Be on the lookout for more Vinitaly-related posts coming soon. Not done learning about wine? Check out Valpolicella Wineries: Where to Go and What to Expect and a post about my Favorite Amarone Wines (a Summary of Anteprima Amarone Wine Fest in Verona).