Without doubt, wine is a drink and meant to be enjoyed as such without necessarily needing to turn it into an epigone of a scientific research paper at every swirl of your glass. However, that much admitted, I really do believe that it can be so much more enjoyable if you know a little bit more about what it is you are drinking. Human nature is such that most of us like to be stimulated mentally, and we enjoy learning. Natural human curiosity is a formidable thrust in making us want to learn more all the time. This is true of anything we drink, never mind wine. Coca Cola is, in many respects, a pretty amazing drink (otherwise it wouldn’t have had the incredible success it has had over so many years); add a little lemon juice and ice, plus or minus a sprig of mint, and you have a modified Cuba libre, which is pretty well all that anyone needs to be happy on a hot summer day. Admittedly, life is just grand then even if you don’t know anything about Coke. But….but…but…well, to my way of thinking, even while lying there under a tropical palm tree with your feet in the turquoise blue water or in your bathtub in the dead of winter wishing you were under a tropical palm tree with your feet in the turquoise blue water, you would still be enjoying that drink so much more if you knew that Coca Cola carries that name because the original recipe actually did include cocaine (at the time of its “invention”, cocaine was in legal use and part of a number of medicines). Or that the second part of its name derives from kola nuts (which contain caffeine, another stimulant). Or that it was invented by John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist. However, soft drinks remain the same no matter where you buy them: the recipe is always more or less the same as that’s a big part of their success (though the recipe may be tweaked gently depending on individual market taste preferences). Wine is of course a totally different animal: it changes all the time depending on where you grow it and how you make it. It offers a never-ending source of fascinating discussions in which the diversity of the expression of both grape variety and site can be discussed ad infinitum and the same is true of the many discussions one can have relative to matters of viticulture and winemaking. Trying to recognize the grape variety a wine is made with or the country (never mind the region or even the single cru) where the wine is made when tasting wines blind is a whole bunch of fun, as anybody who likes wines knows only too well, though it can be a really humbling experience (and those who like wine know that very well too). And wine is almost always made in beautiful places teeming with history, and by usually interesting people; even better, many of the world’s wines have centuries of history and tradition behind them, with some tracing their ancestral roots back to millennia ago. It all adds up to what makes wine a fun, engaging, and ultimately extremely cultural entity. It is also why I believe that wine tasting is a cultural exercise and one that can be so much more than just “acid plus, tannin minus minus and a quarter, oodles of avocado and mountain red berries grown on the south side of the slope and not on the north side, because those taste different”. Education is fun.
The importance of wine shows and tasting events
I believe that wine shows are one of the most fun ways to spend one’s time. Granted, I like wine, so of course I would think so. Ask me how exciting and interesting I think propeller or refrigerator shows are and my view would be different (of course, it would not be so to those who sell fridges and propellers). But as I am talking to a wine-loving crowd here, I am sure you understand where I am coming from. Wine shows come in all shapes and sizes, and more or less they all have one common denominator: they give wine lovers the opportunity to taste many wines all at once and to do so often with wines that may not even be regularly available in the city the event is held in. So there’s plenty to like right there. Happy guzzlers loiter around all day long and eventually make it back home (often getting there by being asleep in some one else’s car), but for sure, at the end of the day, or the next, they have gained much knowledge about an area’s wines (if they can remember any of it, that is: but I’m the happy sort who always holds out hope). Many wine shows feature wine masterclasses with recognized world experts in a specific wine field that are a sideshow to the main event and that offer even more opportunities to learn. In my view, the best such masterclasses are those that have a theme (for example, a vintage, a small specific wine region, a grape or a comparison of two grapes turned into wine in different areas and so forth). There are many outstanding wine shows organized all over the world (and many that are far less so), but for the most part I’d say wine lovers today have an embarrassment of wine tasting riches to choose from. And all the wine shows I associate with come heavily equipped with a cultural armamentarium.
The 100 Great Italian Terroir Wineries and Wines show in Shanghai
Over the last thirty years I have other taken part in as an invited speaker or have downright organized or co-organized so many different wine shows I have lost count. It’s really a whole lot of fun, and it allows me to do what I like best in wine: associate the hedonism of wine tasting with the hedonism of learning. And so was born the 100 Great Italian Terroir Wineries and Wines show in Shanghai, China.
This coming July (Sunday 8 and Monday 9), some of Italy’s best Italian wineries will convene and show their wines to an eager, passionate public willing to learn. The show is partly born from the presentation of my annual wine guide, the D’Agata & Comparini Guide to Italy’s Best Wines that was published yearly from 2005-2013 or so. It used to be presented to a packed crowd of producers and journalists in the main theatre of the city of Merano during that Alto Adige’s town important wine festival held every autumn. It was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to highlight the wines of estates and made with many different grapes nobody was writing much about at the time. The guide sold well (that guide’s spin-off, the “Best Buy Wines of Italy” version was even picked up by a famous weekly magazine as an insert) and producers still today have the certificates on their walls at the wineries. Given that they had also lamented over the years that I had no longer been writing it, and wanting to do something helpful for Italian wine, when I was asked by TasteSpirit what we could do for Italian wine in China, I thought that an annual education- and merit-focused wine show might be a good idea. After all, it had worked before in Italy, so why not China? Not to mention that TasteSpirit has a decade-long experience in organizing the International Terroir Renaissance Symposium, without question China’s premier high-quality wine event that has seen attendees and speakers including Aubert de Villaine, Jean-Nicolas Méo, Alexander Abel of Domaine Ponsot, Thomas Duroux of Château Palmer, Véronique Sanders of Château Haut-Bailly, Philippe Dhalluin, then director of Château Mouton-Rothschild, Alvaro Palacios, Gaia Gaja, Michele Dal Forno of Romano Dal Forno, Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta of Tenuta San Guido and Sassicaia fame, Helen Masters, and many others.
And so the 100 Great Italian Terroir Wineries and Wines show was born, co-organized with TasteSpirit’s historic partner, the Shanghai United Media Group, China’s largest newspaper company but that exercises its role in communication though numerous other media as well. In fact, a Chinese pioneer in omni media, a State company able to reach a global audience of more than 774 Million. The event has been specifically designed to help both Chinese wine lovers get to know the best Italian wines and to know more about their grapes and territories, as well as Italian wine producers and importers thanks to 360 degrees press coverage. The show is expected to reach 15,000 participants at official on-line livestream events; 1000 wine professionals at the on-site wine tasting salon and another 150 at the event’s masterclasses (kept to a limited number of attendees only in an effort to foster a learning, educational atmosphere); and a media exposure of roughly 10 Million people. TasteSpirit alone has close to ten Million individual private users and close to a million of those actively buy wine regularly. The cultural aspects of the wine show are further enhanced by a reception to be held in the Pearl Art Museum, designed by Pritzker Award-winning architect Tadao Ando and a reception and visit of the museum’s latest art show exclusively for the Great 100 Terroir Wineries and Wines show. We will have an awards ceremony with a certificate for the awarded Terroir Wineries participating because their presence at the show means we believe them to be among Italy’s best wineries; clearly not all of Italy’s best wineries will be attending, but with the likes of Biondi-Santi, Elvio Cogno, Tedeschi, Donnafugata, Feudo Montoni, Tiberio, Ceretto, SestadiSopra and Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia) already on board, the list of wineries that will be present is already very strong. Three masterclasses devoted to Barolo Terroirs: the crus of Barolo; Northern and Central Italian wines; and Central and Southern Italian wines will round out the educational moments in a guided classroom setting. These masterclasses will be attended by Chinese wine professionals and so are geared to present a number of less well-known wines made with grapes that may not be as famous, so as to provide a learning opportunity for all those present.
There are many fine wine shows organized all over the world, and at TerroirSense Wine Review we are very happy to be participating it what looks to be another major world wine show that will hopefully help broadcast and propel Italian wine knowledge and appreciation of its high quality to wine lovers and professionals in the rapidly growing Chinese wine market.