Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why this might be our last Vinitaly in Verona: A Dear Giovanni letter to Veronafiere

Dear Veronafiere,

We have been coming to Verona and Vinitaly since 1967. We have watched it expand over the years and have endured the labor pains of growth along with many other long persevering Italians, as well as people from around the world. But we are seriously considering not coming back to Vinitaly in Verona.

1) The first day of the fair, Sunday, has become a drunken party for people who have nothing to do with the wine industry. Booths in the Veneto, Trentino/Alto-Adige and Lombardia halls are impossible to navigate with the throngs of people looking to fill their glasses. No spitting, along with with sloppy drunks in abundance. It is impossible to get any business done in those areas on a Sunday.

2) The parking scene is still a joke. Tonight we collectively sat in our cars in the parking lot across the street from Veronafiere, with hundreds of vehicles trying to leave and with only one exit. Two hours later we finally got out. Late for our evening appointments, again. Really, how hard is it to get some light rail to go from Veronafiere to other areas around Verona to ease the congestion? Or open two more exits? We’ve only been talking about this for 20 years!

3) What is with all the people hanging around the outside of the halls, blocking the doors, and smoking? This is supposed to be a trade show, not a place to light up while waiting for a hooker. And the people who hang on the doors, and then get irritated because one wants to open them to go to another hall? Who is policing the area? No one, that’s who.

4) The bathrooms are still, in large part, a disaster. They stink, the floors are urine soaked, and women still don’t have enough stalls that they have to invade the men’s room. How degrading is that to women (and men) who just need to take a pee? This is disgusting.

5) You have still not managed to keep some of the halls properly ventilated. How hard is it to put in LED lighting that won’t heat the place up, along with opening windows and preventing the rooms from getting stifling hot?

6) Once again, communications within the halls via cell phone, text, messaging and internet, all the different ways we use to communicate in this connected era, these are not possible at Vinitaly. Texts arrive hours later; many of us miss critical communication in order to meet up or change meeting places. Phone calls endlessly are dropped. And trying to access the internet to check on information about a winery or access an app, this is still a huge challenge within the halls of Veronafiere. How can we move our business forward if we cannot use the tools that are essential in today’s world? This is an ongoing scandal and one in which the leadership at Veronafiere have failed, once again, to address.

7) Three wineries, friends of ours, had their booths vandalized and wine stolen? How many more that we don’t know about? Was that a coincidence? Or lack of security. #ThisMustStop.

Do you want more? We spend our hard-earned money trying to promote the wines of Italy. And Verona and Veronafiere has let us down. We are tired of fighting the selfie-obsessed drunken crowds, the foul toilets, the dank halls and what appears to be incompetence of the highest degree of the management of Veronafiere. We would welcome a change; whether to Milan or even to not come at all. At this point maybe time spent (and money) would be better put to use in visiting the wine suppliers in their well-lit, fresh air, clean water and crowd-free, smoke-free environments. The infrastructure of Veronafiere and Vinitaly appears to have finally crumbled. Really Veronafiere, someone needs to clean the house out of all the inept leadership or risk losing the attention of hundreds of thousands of folks who just want to make the world safer for Italian wine. Where is Luca Zaia when we need him?

We love Italy and we love the wine community of Italy. We have many friends of Italian wine business and for many years. We all want a solution more than we want to complain about it, we really do. But Veronafiere, and Vinitaly by association, you have not proven to be capable of finding sustainable solutions. We’re considering to #BoycottVinitaly2016, the 50th anniversary of a show that had good original intentions. But, it appears it doesn't have the will, the vision, and the leadership necessary, to take it to another 50 years.


The Italian wine industry

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Unknown said...

The crowd would be easy to stop. Just get all the guys with their hundred blackmarket tickets away. I passed at least 25 of them around the main entrance.

David Black said...

While I miss seeing all my friends and colleagues this year, assessing newly released vintages and discovering new up and comers, I do not miss Veronefiere and VinItaly for all the reasons articulated here by Alfonso Cevola.

I have taken to skipping Sunday, the drunk day. Wednesday, the last day, is hardly worth it as by late morning exhibitors are exhausted from the melee and packing their booths up early to get a jump on the hours-long exodus from the grounds. It is effectively a 2 day trade fair. I am afraid not much will change however, until exhibitors, those that fund the operation, start revolting. A few have, but it will take some big names.

It is a shame that VinItaly, one of the most important trade fairs in Italy, has not done more to address these now-chronic problems. Especially considering that the tremendous international growth of Italian wines make the wine sector one of the very few bright lights in the Italian Economy. Or perhaps it is due to that fact, that VinItaly is not responsive to improvement.
Thankfully it is no longer a necessity to attend Vinitaly to carry on business with Italian producers.

Flemming said...

Well that sounds really like a sad story, but i think that David Black hits it when he says that it has to be the exhibitors who needs to stand up and tell they dont want it to be this way.
Or maybe they dont ( the exhibitors ) see a problem, and with so many visitors they ( Veronafiere ) dont see a problem.

Serena Betti said...

Davvero desolante leggere queste sue parole e per me, figlia di chi ha ideato Vinitaly e che nella Fiera di Verona ha messo tutta la sua passione, lo è ancora di più. Naturalmente la stampa locale non parla di questa 'disorganizzazione', chiamiamola così. Evidentemente gli interessi sono altri. Grazie per tutto quello che fa e continuerà a fare per il vino italiano. Serena Betti

Anonymous said...

Sunday has always been the day of normal people going around to enjoy a few glasses of wine. And thank God for that, it brings Vinitaly back to its roots of a fair for wine lovers, not only professionals or poncy snobs. If you think you are too cool to mix with normal people, don't come on a Sunday.

Fabio Rizzari said...

Hard to say it better. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

Well, firstly I'd like to remind you that Vinitaly is non a purely trade show but it's an international wine exposition. You can tel from the way the boots are designed that even the big lables have a "window" to let visitors taste their production. Here the expositors are proud of what they do and want the pubblic to see it. If you wanted to have people freeing the way in front of you and talk only business, you make an appointment but not surely on Sunday. I agree that many things need perfection and most of the drunken croud enters with free tickets given by the winery itself. Also, with 150.000 visitors (for business or not) after 5 glases of wine the urge of the toilet is fisiologic, it's understandable a little croud. If you'd come today, wednesday, you'd have all the time of the world to discuss technical details of the wine or of business as you like. Italians love what they do and enjoy showing it. If your idea of it was business only, Vinitaly is not your place... Sergio Olivetti - Verona Italy

Anonymous said...

La stampa locale non parla di questa? Quale cane morde la mano che nutre?

I would echo these observations. For the past two years I have chosen to spend my time and travel budget to meet directly with the producers -- away from this chaos.

With VinItaly, the hotels are filled. The restaurants are filled. The parking is filled. The money rolls in for everyone in Verona. Like an over-milked cow, I do not see the [lack of] organization changing until the money dries up.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with this post, and that is why I've personally avoided Vinitaly for the second straight year.

The problem is for small niche exhibitors, without a functional trade show they'll have trouble showcasing their products.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate our few American friends that braved the chaos to join us for a meager plate of agnolotti and a few humble sips of Barolo.

It's a pity that the most important Italian wine fair in the world is now just the biggest.

Unknown said...

Il vero vino già da tempo è fuggito dal Vintaly. A 30 (trenta) kilometri a sud di Verona - nel centro fieristico di CEREA, sempre in provincia di Verona - Vi segnalo che si svolge "ViniVeri, vino secondo natura" iniziando ogni anno il venerdì precedente (due giorni prima) per terminare la domenica (il giorno in cui inizia il Vinitaly). Luogo e vignaioli che insieme offrono di vivere un evento meraviglioso. Si arriva dalla superstrada Verona-Rovigo, si esce e si arriva in fiera senza file, dove si parcheggia facilmente in uno dei 5 (cinque) ordnati parcheggi. In alternativa ogni ora si può prendere il treno, dalla stazione di Verona, che ferma a 200 metri dall'ingresso della fiera di Cerea e viceversa.
L'evento fieristico offre la possibilità di assaggiare i vini di oltre 150 Vignaioli Naturali provenieti da tutta Europa; noti perchè non usano la chimica di sintesi in vigna e le addizioni di lieviti, enzimi e tutte le altre sostanza provenienti dall'industria ... insomma offrono "Vini Veri" portando con se la propria identità di origine.
Il vino non è morto!, apriamo gli occhi, svegliamoci! Troppi di ni si sono assopiti, ma non è mai troppo tardi, ragionare con la propria testa.

Franco Ziliani said...

congratulation Alfonso, I totally agree with your commentary.
This is my post with my decision not to go at Vinitaly Vanity Fair 2015: http://www.vinoalvino.org/blog/2015/03/semplice-e-chiaro-ecco-perche-non-sono-alla-vinitaly-vanity-fair.html

VinKreutzer.dk said...

My first time at Vinitaly, and coming almost straight from Prowein, I couldn't agree more. Vinitaly is filled with young people (students) drinking and having a good time. The atmosphere and the people here are fantastic, but the organisation is misrable.

This fair is only interesting because of the broad selection of good wines.

All the best
Frederik VinKreutzer.dk

Anonymous said...

Great article and 100% true, the morons who are in charge of Vinitaly should find something else to do in the future and stay away from Vinitaly.

babylonfalling said...

There are many wineries who are seriously considering no longer attending Vinitaly and only going to Prowein... and for the exact reasons you spoke about.

Lene Bucelli said...

BRAVO! This blog post perfectly mirrors Avignonesi's view on Vinitaly. Actually, we agree som much that we have taken the liberty to copy your post on our website, to underline to people why we do NOT participate as Avignonesi (with your credentials, of course) http://www.avignonesi.it/en/stories/2015/the-chaos-that-is-vinitaly
Lene Bucelli, Director of Marketing, Avignonesi, Montepulciano

ZIO PIPPO said...

Hello Alfonso,
Let me to advise you
I see that you are a very stubborn person. After so many years to the Vinitaly you have not understood the italian essence yet
The business of the Vinitaly organization not to allow you to make business, but to make business themselves
Simple, if you require an intimate environment where to meet the producers that you distribute or you promote must not go to the Vinitaly
All the high level italian wine professional don't go to the Vinitaly (don't tell me that you are not aware of it)
If you need sell the brand, or promote, showed in Vinitaly don't complain you. The best italian wine product doesn't go to the Vinitaly
I'm amazed that you don't know it, after so many year
Contact me if you want some fresh news

Vittorio Perri - veperri@gmail.it

Michele ierace said...

Totally agree, marketing at his worst

vinotravels21 said...

I've actually yet to go but I must say that I hear more complaints about the event than positives. I'd rather visit the wineries themselves although I understand it's easier doing busy under one roof with wines from all over the country. If they haven't changed much yet when will it take place?

Wojciech Bońkowski said...

Beg to disagree on several points. Wi-fi has worked seamlessly across all halls for me.

Sunday - maybe better to avoid the most crowded areas and go do some business in Liguria or Abruzzo?

Can't comment on the parking, but there are free buses every 10 minutes, so like to every single trade of this dimension, coming by car is perhaps not the best option?

People stand and smoke outside the halls at ProWein and Vinexpo but somehow nobody complains.

We agree on one thing, there are plenty of non-trade people at the fair and it would be easier for the trade to work if there weren't. The thing is that Italy has the greatest wine culture of all countries and thousands of people coming to Vinitaly to enjoy a glass or two of Franciacorta is also part of that culture—drunkards are a margin of it. Yes, Vinitaly could be made a trade fair 100% for professionals, but something would be lost as well.

On other issues, frankly there is little palpable difference (from a visitor’s point of view) between Vinitaly and other large fairs, such as Prowein, judging from visit to both in the last 10 days.

Unknown said...


I don't think it could be said any better. Bravo!

I haven't been to VinItaly since 2004 and that was a part of it, even though I'm a smoker too but, I hated people smoking on the wine stands, and once you moved away from them they looked at you as if you killed someone. It's this casual socializing which is ok but many people come from far away to taste and we should respect all.

Keep it up Alfonso

Marco said...

AC, this post might garner the most comments of all your posts to date. You may not want to publish this comment and I'll understand why. It is curious that the Northern Italians pride themselves on their efficiency and organization vis-a-vis the Mezzogiorno.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alberto G. said...

Cara Serena,
se è vero che ogni scarrafone è bello a mamma sua, è anche vero che ogni genitore dovrebbe avere un po' di senso critico.
Da frequentatore di vecchia data di questa importante manifestazione, non posso che associarmi alle tristi considerazioni di Cevola, essendomi ritrovato in tutte le situazioni che lui descrive.
A questo aggiungo la mancanza totale di vigilanza nelle ultime ore del pomeriggio, quando il fenomeno di coloro che vengono per bere e non per degustare diventa addirittura molesto e pericoloso.
Ho visto gruppi di ragazzotti scivolare su e giù montato cassonetti, lanciare calici "alla russa" e gironzolare come drogati alla ricerca di qualche fondo di bottiglia.
Mai visto niente di simile al Prowein, tanto per fare un paragone.
Concludo dicendo che l'anno prossimo io ci sarò, nonostante tutto, ma anche che sarebbe bello che una volta tanto, in Italia, alle parole seguissero fatti concreti.
Devoto ma critico,
Alberto (Firenze)

Unknown said...

I agree with Alfonso and find it ironic that the organization of Vinitaly does not approach their event with the same year-round passion and intensity that the producers they seek to feature at their event. The overall quality of the Italian wine industry has improved tremendously over the last 25 years. Too bad we can't say the same about the organization of Vinitaly.

Gino Colangelo said...

Speaking for myself (not the entire 'Italian Wine Industry'), I had my most productive Vinitaly ever. All of my appointments were on time, my cell never dropped or missed a call and my Internet worked fine. Certainly, some improvements can be made(bathrooms for starters) but Vinitaly is uniquely Italian and I personally appreciate and love it for what it is. Too crowded on Sunday? Start your show Monday. Trouble getting out of the parking lot? Park at one of the outer lots and take a shuttle bus.

Vinitaly is a annual opportunity for me to conduct business efficiently (clients and business partners gathered in one place) but it's much more than that: Vinitaly is an extravaganza of Italian wine and culture. It's not an insular club for 'members only.' I'd much rather put up with small inconveniences than see the Show lose its uniquely Italian essence.

Gino Colangelo

Ernest Ifkovitz said...

Alfonso, Grazie! for having written this. I felt guilty this year. I came the day before vinitaly opened to taste with a few producers while they built their stands. THe other two days, I came with a producer pass at 8:45 and started the appointments. Still, I had to come alone and without any buyers or distributors because it's just such a mess. Che cazzo! No internet and SMS again. So embarrassing.

Ernest Ifkovitz said...

Plus, I am really over the hot-chick approach that the majority of the stands have. Do we really need to fling girl-blink to get folks to taste wine and ask about producers. So sad. THose girl know zilch about wine and it's just plain unprofessional to have them there.

Gianpaolo Paglia said...

good letter Alfonso. Tragically, what you describe is true, and that letter could have been written any year in the last twenty.

Faith Willinger said...

I've already given up on Vinitaly. For all the reasons you've stated. Plus I never discover anything new. Too crowded to really taste.

Giampiero Nadali said...

I'm so sad, Alfonso, and I'm totally supporting your frustration. It has been so long that bloggers, journalists and paying exhibitors are complaining about these issues. We'll miss you if you'll pursue your decision, but you are 100% right.

Chris Zimmerman said...

Bravo Alfonso! You certainly speak for me. Grazie!

Gianni Cantele said...

Ecco un esempio di quello che significa, in Italia, non saper prendere decisioni strategiche, ma vivacchiare per portare ogni anno a Verona qualche migliaio di persone in più. Rischiando fortemente di perdere il confronto con Prowein. Ammesso che non sia già troppo tardi.

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