Thursday, April 10, 2008

into the mouth of the drunken lion

We have traveled long and far to arrive at the Disneyland of wine. The circus. The chaos. The Jurassic Park. The casino. These are the words used by veterans of the largest wine expo in the world. Twenty-two countries and over 4000 producers. We feel a little relieved that we are only here to taste the wines of Italy. We have been warned about the traffic, and the craziness, and the sheer numbers of people. We’ve tried to mentally gird ourselves as we drive from the tranquil countryside of our friend’s b&b about 30 minutes south of Verona and into the city to park somewhere not too far from the fair.

We’ve had a little luck on our side. We land in the ground-down old parking lot which turns out to be the golden egg of our treasure hunt, allowing us to be fairly close and out of the flow of the heavy traffic coming and going. We are guided by our fearless importers to various producers where we taste and smell things like pomegranite, salt, slate, violets, roses, orange peel, scotch broom. We taste earth, red clay and white chalk.

Not only are there wines to taste, but there are booths designed like separate little worlds, and fashion that is both grand and low. The eyes are always engaged, and the sounds of voices in various languages keep the ears at attention. Whispers release the news of current scandals (Is it true that Brunello di Montalcino has been corrupted? ) And others shout awards and compliments to the stylish little darlings.

We follow our guides like the followers of Charon across the River Styx. We wade in and out and take constant inspiration.


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