Thursday, June 20, 2013

#Vinexpo 2013: Crashing the Party

Scanning the Twitterverse this week I ran across this tweet: ‏@jamescwilmore “Among opinions I've heard: #vinexpo now just for PR and parties; @ProWein more professional & where more business gets done.”

That might be so, but the event is important in that it is held in the modern epicenter of the wine business. You might not agree, but thousands of producers and winemakers are here, to pervert ZZ Top’s famous lyrics, “just looking for some touch.”

Vinexpo is a perversion of sorts on a grand scale. The longest pavilion in the world for the exhibition of wine. My Nike Fuel wrist band tracked almost 3,000 steps in the circle I made around the perimeter. Long. Yes. Boring. No.

There is something about seeing winemakers, journalists, merchants and lovers of wine in different stands, whether it be Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Italy or France. The wine gods are alive and kicking it in this quasi-aspirational hall of Mammon.

There were stars, wannabes, trench soldiers, princesses-in-waiting, they were lined up. Sensory overload if it weren’t for the fact that I have seen this kind of energy at Vinitaly, so I backed off a little and let the course run by me without it dragging me into its undertow.

It is a seductive pull, I admit. But something inside me has been stirring, this attraction to the outside world and the desires aren’t as bright and pretty as they once were. Little did I know there would be a further confirmation of that on a stormy night in a dark street.

Some of the Italians were there with their something old, something new look. Valentina Abbona pouring a wine older than her, explaining the vintage, 1971. The very first year I came to Italy. Precious if a wee bit tired. I know the feeling. But to Valentina it’s part of her family history and she is part of the future. A bright future at that.

Jean Charles Boisset was there, full of his usual shot of energy and flair. With young twins at home and married to Gina Gallo, here is a man who must be a big tree, he has no other destiny. He is growing into it rather fast.

Francesco Zonin showed up, tanned and svelte, flashing his famous smile and dividing his time between receiving fans and friends and commenting on his latest winery in Apulia. His Primitivo from Manduria, something new to the portfolio, was juicy and ripe and deep flavored.

Sicily was in full swing, with their very own area, filled with a bee-hive buzzing, full of energy, cadre of producers, popping their spicy bottles, talking animatedly in their very own version of Italian. I could almost feel I was in Sicily. Not yet. Coming.

Monday night we drove out to Pauillac for a Garden Party at Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. The chais is undergoing renovations, but the chateau was lit up like a Disneyland castle. The rain cued up a little early and stayed for most of the party, moving the partygoers into the rainproof tent. A jazz band played American music, a tribute to Etta James in one song (“At Last”) to note her recent passing. Folks were intent on getting their share of three vintages of Cristal (2002, 1996 and 1993), two vintages of Pichon (1996 and 1976-from Jeroboams) and a dessert wine, 20 year tawny from Ramos Pinto.

It was a casual event, people were told to take off their ties and relax a little – The New Bordeaux. Accompanying that was a lineup of food which the partygoers could queue up to.

Arriving fashionably late was James Suckling in his “aging rock star attire”, skinny jeans, deck shoes and the requisite neck scarf. One of my colleagues was sighted by Messieur Suckling and he went over and chatted him up. If you’ve ever wondered what a California brogue is, just listen to one of his videos – he has the quintessential California accent. He was there with his new fiancĂ©e who hails from Hong Kong.

After the Pichon, the Cristal and the Porto we’d had enough of the luxe-life of Bordeaux. I’d shifted over to orange juice a few hours before and wanted to sleep. Heading back to Bordeaux, it was still lightly raining.

Years before, in 2005, I had been on a road to wine country in Sonoma and the car I was in went off the road and then flew back onto the freeway, clipping several high moving vehicles in the transaction, only to swirl around the freeway several times at 60 mph to come to a halt. All four of us walked out of the car, but the vehicle was destroyed. I spent several months with a chiropractor getting my back straightened out. I was with an importer and several friends from Italy including a winemaker from Valpolicella. We bonded in that we cheated death that day.

This night, as we approached an intersection in the slippery night, our driver slowed to turn to the road for Bordeaux. In the flash of an instant an approaching car racing through the intersection slammed into our car, broadside. Knowing the drill from 2005, I jumped out of the car and got away from the wreck, in case there were other cars approaching at high velocity. Fortunately the oncoming drivers slowed, stopped and we proceeded to take inventory of the damages, waiting for the gendarmes. The rain stopped. I was sore as hell, but not as sore as I would be in a day or two. I knew the drill, seatbelt burn, feeling like my lungs were on fire.

All passengers were relatively OK. The car that hit us, driven by a young girl, she was in a panic, but with no life threatening maladies. I started clearing car parts from the road, just like I did in 2005. Keep moving, I said to myself, keep moving. A short trip to the local hospital for x-rays revealed no internal injuries (at this time) or bone breaks. Very lucky, once again, on the wine trail.

I’m writing this now from sunny Italy, after departing a cold, wet and dark Bordeaux. There is a reason this wine blog isn’t called on the wine trail in France, isn’t there? All said, very lucky, still a little sore, but Sicily (where I am headed) will look after one of their own. Or so I hope.

In each life some rain must fall

written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
Real Time Analytics