A first-rate event in a stunning setting, even the rain and howling winds couldn’t dampen the spirits here. And oh how the spirits were flowing. Aglianico and Taurasi reds, Fiano and Falanghina whites, and crowd pleasing Grappas (at least for the crowd I went with). Who could ask for anything more.

For its 6th annual edition, the Vitigno Italia Wine Trade Fair pulled out all the stops and put on a spectacular show. And while the wine was definitely the star, the venue made the day. Set in Naples 13th century Castel dell’Ovo on the Isle of Megaride, home to the famous legend of Partenope and Virgil’s mythical egg, the backdrop couldn’t have been more captivating. An intimate and comfortable setting, the ancient cellars of the Castle were adorned in contemporary accoutrements befitting the event. And while the expo was 100 percent 21st century, you felt absorbed in the vast history of this region. What better place to showcase wines made entirely from indigenous Italian varietals than in the region that is home to some of the longest cultivated varietals in Italy.

A true celebration of Italy’s viticulture, 2000 ancient and new varietals and old and new blends were on tap. According to Vitigno Italia, over 10,000 visitors sampled the grapes over this three day event which showcased some 300 producers from Veneto to Sicily. And the Campania region was well represented. From the largest producers – Feudi di San Gregorio, Terredora and Mastroberadino to name a few, to the small up and comers like Caputalbus, Campanian wines just might have stolen the show. And it is no surprise that Aglianico and Falanghina were among our favorites, as were the Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Taurasi. As to the best of the best, I leave that to the experts to decide, but Caputalbus, a small cantina in Benevento won my vote with the homemade fig pie they served with their 2009 Dies Irae Falanghina. In a word, Perfect!

Spread across two floors and throughout 11 of the Castle’s rooms, six rooms were dedicated entirely to the exhibitors. The Campania wines were certainly a crowd favorite but there were producers from all over Italy offering up some great wines. Nero d’Avola from Sicily, Montepulciano d’Abbuzzo, the classic Chardonnays and Merlots, and one of my personal favorites, a DOCG Chianti Classico from Gruppo Santa Margherita in Veneto. And then there was the Grappa. In every room there were at least two or three Grappa exhibitors, and in the Italia room we stumbled across (no pun intended) a sixty year old bottle from Dellavalle in Vigliano d’Asti that almost made it home with us. But common sense prevailed and it was on with the show.

Adding to the ambiance were the wide range of top of the line wine products on display, wine keys, corks, glasses, decanters, ice buckets, and some absolutely gorgeous wine coolers and racks. And in the Sirena room, Berkel in Campania put on a gorgeous display of restaurant products. For those who grew weary from all the sampling, Kimbo, the premier coffee of Naples, set up a small cafe in the upper floor of the Castle. In another room on the top floor was an art show curated by the Cultural Association ArteNapolidaMangiare. Exploring the theme of wine, artists, designers and photographers showed a wide range of paintings, sculpture, photography and installation art.

A week long celebration of wine which started with the Wine in the City event, Vitigno Italia was an enormous success. And their most important mission, promoting Italian wines here and abroad exceeded their expectations. According to Vitigno Italia, their Focus on Asia initiative brought buyers from Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Indochina. Also present were the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia and India, as well as the traditional markets of Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Ireland and the U.S. In all, 100 buyers from around the world met with exhibitors in private meetings over the three day event.

Congratulations to Vitigno Italia and all of the exhibitors on a great show!!! We can’t wait to see what’s in store next year.

The 6th annual edition of Vitgno Italia was held 16 – 18 May 2010