Vinitaly: The Aftermath & After Party

by Chuck Hayward

Vinitaly: The Aftermath & After Party

Post by Chuck Hayward | May 25th, 2011

After any major wine event, the behind-the-scenes folks gather together, take a load off and have a drink (or three). Standing on your feet all day and pouring wine to assorted consumers and sales reps, followed by entertaining clients at dinner takes its toll. So when everything is said and done and the credit card slips are signed, those with some spring left in their step converge on "the" place to be. Every city has one: The Supper Club in Melbourne after Wine Australia, The Matterhorn in Wellington following a session at the New Zealand Pinot Noir Conference and RN74 after anything in San Francisco. And following a big day at Vinitaly, the entire wine world crowds into the Bottega del Vino, one of the best wine bars on the planet.

Wall of Armagnacs at Bottega del Vino

Tucked away on the Scudo di Francia, the traditionally-styled wine bar Bottega del Vino had an inauspicious appearance from the outside, save for the throngs of people that packed the alley and made getting to the door quite a challenge. Working the crowd, I shouldered my way through to the entrance,  greeting friends and business associates along the way.  Once past the security guards (Vinitaly crowd control), you enter a warm space crammed with wooden tables and walls lined with hundreds of old wine bottles. Every seat was occupied, and waiters and busboys darted past clutching bottles and glasses. The noise level seemed to ebb and flow on the same tide as the bottle fills.

Severino Barzan, the heart of the bar

Currently located in a former Playboy Club, the modern incarnation of Bottega del Vino dates from 1890 with roots going back to the 1500s. It has become such an important part of the fabric of life and business in Verona, that when faced with severe financial problems some years ago that caused it to be closed, the regional Minister of Agriculture in concert with 12 Amarone producers intervened to ensure that the wine bar was reopened for business. The Amarone group, along with a local rice grower, currently owns the Bottega, but Severino Barzan, the former owner, remains. His passion and enthusiasm were considered fundamental to the success of the Bottega del Vino and Severino is on hand to greet customers, answer questions and taste the older vintages that are sent his direction.

And those are just the wines available by the glass

Some people go for the food, while wine geeks (myself included) like to plunder the wine list and raid the cellar. There are an estimated 130,000 bottles in three different cellars with a heavy emphasis on Italian wines, as expected, though well chosen selections from France and other countries are included. The list is a virtual encyclopedic wine tour of Italy spanning the 20th century with the breadth and depth that few places in the world can match. The best wines are served in extremely large glasses designed by Barzan and, surprisingly, I never heard the sounds of broken glass despite the rather rough handling by the waitstaff.

The dynamic atmosphere is such that I ended up there three nights in a row, each night’s story quite different than the others. The first night saw us plundering the cellars in search of rare French wines, which we found in spades—a delicious La Tache and a youthful Latour. With the local police chiding the bar for too many people inside as well in the alley the first night, I was glad to find it open the next night when I stopped by for a late night glass of spumante before catching a cab home…the room quiet and almost church like. The final night found us back at a table meeting new friends while experimenting with pinot noirs from Alto Adige and magnums of Bordeaux. The authenticity and energy of this special wine bar is quite unique and would be hard to duplicate anywhere. It is easy to see why the Bottega del Vino is a "must visit" for any wine enthusiast, and it has certainly made my list. Combined with the craziness of Vinitaly, the Bottega del Vino reaches an even higher plateau. I'll be looking forward to witnessing this celebration of wine and people again.