Iʼm in Verona for the new vintage presentation of Amarone, one of Italyʼs most famous wines. It shall be interesting because recently Iʼve grown tired of Amarone, its overconcentration and boozey headiness and especially how itʼs been destroying Verona’s best wine, the supremely food-friendly and life-enhancingly drinkable Valpolicella. So Iʼm really curious what this full immersion will reveal.
I flew from Warsaw to Milan with a crowd of anxious Italian businessmen amidst catastrophic articles in Corriere della Sera about budget deficit, economic crunch and negative sentiment in Italian small companies. Marginally more optimistic despite the +4.3% GDP figure just published for 2011, one Polish paper alarmingly said Europeʼs future is now hanging in the balance as it is being discussed at the economic summit in Davos.
I wouldnʼt know. Verona is looking everything but depressive. Cafés are buzzing, espresso is as good as ever and high street shops were looking full of people actually handing over their credit cards at the counter. Iʼve had a hard time finding a free lunchtime table at Al Pompiere, one of Veronaʼs priciest tables. Maybe all these customers are bankers and football players.
Al Pompiere is the epitome of that quintessential Italian superrefined rusticity: it is basically a bistro serving mainly ham and cheese on chequered tableclothes but waiters in liveries offer silver service and there are four vintages of Timorasso alone on the wine list, as well as Bertaniʼs 1964 Amarone (for 380€, actually not a bad deal because itʼs a super wine). Oh, and 20 varieties of controlled appellation ham too. The ham is delicious, and sliced thinner than current industry margins. Home-baked grissini and superb marinated vegetables add a sour counterpoint that transforms the hamʼs simple folksong into a full-blown operatic experience. Everybody makes cheese and ham sandwiches but admittedly few can do it with the insolent élan of the Italians. A glass of Caʼ Rugate 2010 Monte Fiorentine Soave was beautifully mineral and appetizing with the ham (Soave is Veronaʼs other wine, and itʼs good to remember that given its recent soar in quality). A glass of Grotta del Ninfeo 2008 Valpolicella went just fine with my pasta.
Greece and Spain might be bankrupt, the worldʼs future might today be at stake in Davos but as of Friday 27th January Iʼve found Italy functioning just fine, excelling where it has always excelled: at elevating lifeʼs every detail into fine art.
My trip to Verona including flights, 4* accommodation and wine tasting programme is sponsored by the Consorzio Vini Valpolicella but this lunch was my own expense.