From Tradition to Innovation: Vinitaly 2024 Highlights Italy's Wine Diversity

The mood at Vinitaly this year matched the warm spring weather of Verona, with the fair buzzing with ideas and visitors. The general programme included discussions about the threats from the health lobby and the opportunities for alcohol-free wines. A report from Meininger’s.

Reading time: 5m

Full of colour - Vinitaly 2024 (Photo: Anja Zimmer)
Full of colour - Vinitaly 2024 (Photo: Anja Zimmer)

In a wine world that’s changing rapidly, Vinitaly stays the same—full of colour and life, with packed halls and the sound of coffee machines going at full speed.

Italy’s exports slowed in 2023, falling 4.4% in volume and 7.3% in value, as major markets consumed the excess stocks they’d accumulated in previous years.

But the feeling among participants at the fair was that it was business as usual, with ever more bottlings of autochthonous varieties and sparkling wines for show on the stands, and an explosion of design creativity to be seen.
 

Honouring Antinori

A highlight of this year’s Vinitaly was the gala dinner to honour Marchese Piero Antinori, from the family’s 26th generation of wine producers. Over the course of his career, he expanded production from 50 to 2,200 ha. More significantly, he was a pioneer of the Super Tuscan movement, producing the icon wine Tignanello in 1971 followed, seven years later by Solaia which helped catapult Tuscany to the ranks of fine wine.

Jancis Robinson MW and Jeannie Cho Lee MW were beamed in over the course of the night to ask Marchese Antinori about his life and work.

When asked what he was most proud of, he simply said: “Turning the company from a winemaking company into an agricultural one.”
 

A plethora of exhibition halls

As usual, the exhibition was divided regionally with every part of Italy having its own hall or part of one. Fascinatingly, for any first time visitor, each of these halls has its own eye-catching exterior décor, with Sicily boasting giant bunches of grapes against a bright green background while the Veneto used huge AI images to promote its message of ‘natural intelligence’. In many cases, the interior of the halls had their own specific ambiences. Abruzzo, for example had huge cartoon characters, while a long, wide green ‘wave’ hung from the ceiling of the Emilia Romagna hall.

The exhibition stands, too, exhibited the Italian passion for bella figura – looking the best you can. Even the smallest producer took the trouble to decorate their nine square metres, with vines, jars of soil, pictures or, in one case, colourful birdboxes.

Many took advantage of shared spaces like the ever-popular Langa In in the Piemonte hall 10, where the top flight Barolo producer Chiara Boschis entertained visitors and buyers at a simple table.

At the other end of the scale, bigger companies like Ferrari and Antinori had immense, closed-off booths, access to which involved an appointment or a patient wait in a queue.
 

A smörgåsbord in Hall F

Hall F was home to a wide variety of stands showcasing services for the wine industry. From glasses and packaging to smaller agricultural machines, such as the multipurpose equipment from Merlo Cingo, everything that could pertain to wine production was represented. 

One example was NATURaLL, high-quality cotton table linen for the gastronomy trade, showcasing Italian flair coupled with a durable quality, which offers tablecloths and napkins for the catering industry; one of their promises is that it takes less water to wash the fabrics than is usual.

Alfatek specialises in bottling plants.
Alfatek specialises in bottling plants.
The high-quality cotton table linen of NATURaLL
The high-quality cotton table linen of NATURaLL

The packaging manufacturer OMA 1971 has been represented at Vinitaly since its inception. For them, the trade fair is less of a sales event, but more of a good platform to meet their customers and to talk about new projects. They also use it as a place to bring all their sales agents together, a small “company gathering,” said international sales manager Giordano Toppetta. He said the OMA machines are increasingly important given the difficulty of finding labour; it makes sense for companies producing more than 500,000 bottles a year.

Alfatek, also an Italian company, specialises in bottling plants. The company, which has around 60% of its customers in the wine industry, has been coming to Vinitaly for 20 years. “The fair is full of our customers who come by whenever they have time. Here they can see our machines on site, negotiate and talk about new projects. Around 90% of visitors to the stand are new customers,” said Walter D'Ippolito, from the sales department. 
 

Interesting seminar programme

The extensive seminars and tasting programmes offered many highlights. In one masterclass, Vitalie Taittinger and Francesca Moretti compared two Taittinger Champagnes with two Bellavista wines from Franciacorta in Italy. While both houses are known for their expressive sparkling wines, the greater number of sunshine hours in Franciacorta were clearly visible in the fuller wines from Bellavista.

Another annual feature run by Italian Master of Wine, Andrea Lonardi, showcased all of the Super Tuscans, while Anja Zimmer from Meininger's International and Clemens Gerke from Weinwirtschaft presented eight of the non-alcoholic wines that had won awards at the MUNDUS VINI competition.

Source: Gallup July 2023, SILICON VALLEY BANK 2024 STATE OF THE WINE INDUSTRY
Source: Gallup July 2023, SILICON VALLEY BANK 2024 STATE OF THE WINE INDUSTRY

Non-alcoholic wines offer a key opportunity for the wine trade, and not just because they are a replacement for alcoholic products. As no- and low- consumers are known to switch between categories, non-alc wines are also replacing traditional non-alcoholic drinks like soft drinks, water and hot drinks.

Non-alcohol wines can also penetrate new markets such as southeast Asia, where up to 40% of the population can’t process alcohol.

Insights

No-alcohol was the talk of the World Bulk Wine Exhibition, held in Amsterdam. Felicity Carter went along to find out why people are so excited.

Reading time: 8m

The threat from the health lobby

Meininger’s contributor Felicity Carter, along with Gino Colangelo, Amy Gross and Susan Kostrzewa, discussed the threat from the anti-alcohol lobby at a panel called “The Growing Threat of Neo-Prohibitionism and What the Wine Trade Can Do About It.”

Gino Colangelo presented research that his company, Colangelo & Partners, had done in conjunction with Wine Opinions; they surveyed around 2,000 wine drinkers and asked them about their attitudes to wine and health.

Amy Gross, president of Women For WineSense, and Susan Kostrzewa, noted American wine editor, then presented ideas about how to counter the messaging.

It was a well-attended session that provoked considerable discussion afterwards. It's clear that the topic has touched a nerve and that many members of the wine trade are now alarmed by what's happening.

Events Insights

One of the most interesting panels at Vinitaly was on the topic of the anti-alcohol movement and its impact on consumers. The panellists also discussed ways to push back against disinformation.

Reading time: 3m 45s

Back out in the Italian sunshine, however, the sheer number of people hurrying through Vinitaly made one thing clear — wine is alive and well, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Facts & Figures
  • 97,000 trade visitors (compared to 93,000 last year)
  • over 30,000 participants from 140 countries
  • 1,200 top international buyers (+20%)

USA: 3,700 participants (+8% compared to 2023). 
Then came Germany, UK, China and Canada (+6%). There were also more Japanese buyers this year (+15%).

The 57th edition of Vinitaly will take place from 6 to 9 April 2025.

 

 

 

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