Concorso Enologico Internazionale di Vinitaly. No, we are not shifting gears to Italian, not yet! It is only the name of the 14th International Wine Competition that ended in Verona, a few days ahead of Vinitaly, which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Being here has been a great experience ...
... not only because I was one of 42 wine journalists invited from 36 countries to take part as one of the 105 commissioners in the competition, where as many as 3500 wines were entered from 30 countries;
... not only because I had the opportunity of tasting 189 wines from 15 nations, including sparkling wines and liqueurs, in four days and a half;
... not only because I was also involved in judging the final round, where the fate of 36 top wines were decided by us after a second round of tasting;
... not only because the Concorso gave me a unique opportunity to sharpen my olfactory powers and tasting capabilities as a result of continuous blind tasting and comparisons of several wines from the same category and classification at the same time;
... not only because I had the opportunity to interact with 42 Italian enologists and 21 more from around the world and discuss and learn from them about many aspects of wine making in general and about their countries;
... not only because I learnt to swim through the extremely complicated, professional, transparent and random judging process of the world's most representative wine competition;
... not only because the event gave me an opportunity to brush up my rusty Italian!
BUT also, an more importantly, the gave me another opportunity to make new wine friends from around the world. Count John Umberto Salvi, an English MW of 1970 vintage, who has been living in Bordeaux for almost 35 years, is more colourful than all the shades of red and white wines and is more effervescent than all the bubbles I went through. He is a new friend.
Cathy Van Zyl from South Africa is the newest -- and 251st -- Master of Wine and she became a member of this elite group just last year. John was the 25th Master of Wine and is Cathy's senior by 25 years, so you can see that a mere seven men and women from around the world get the privilege of joining this super-exclusive club each year. The induction rate, as John confirmed to me, has actually grown after the Council decided to add members from outside Britain 20 years back. Kate Hardy belongs to the famous Hardy family of Australia, but came here as an enologist commissioner from France, representing OIV, the Organisation Internationale De La Vigne et Du Win, a United Nations-type association of wine producing and consuming countries based in Paris. It may soon have India as a member if indications given from the Ministries of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries are to be believed.
Franco Giacosa, an enologist from Piemonte, has worked for 20 years with the famous wine producer Duca de Salaparuta of Sicily. Since 1997, he has been the Technical Director of the powerful industrial empire of Zonin, helping change their image to that of a quality wine-producing company. The number of Three Glasses that Zonin has got from Gambero Rosso are testimonials to Franco's dedication and Zonin's seriousness about the wine business. He took time out from managing the 1,800 hectares owned by the company to take part in the competition which he values greatly.
I have enjoyed making new friends over the years on such occasions. I am told that wine people can get very unfriendly if we don't do business with them. Maybe! But my dream run continues.