Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Maurizio Zanella, Owner/Winemaker, Ca' del Bosco, and President of the Franciacorta Consortium at the EWBC 2011 in Brescia, Italy
Held in beautiful Brescia, in the northern part of Italy, about an hour east of Milan by car or train, and sponsored by the Franciacorta Producers’ Consortium, the 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) took place on October 14 and 15, with optional pre-conference events on October 13 and wine region excursions from October 17 to 19. Wine bloggers and wine industry professionals joined together to discuss the convergence between the culture of wine and the internet and to taste and enjoy Italian wine and food during 5 days full of lectures, seminars, wine tastings, and vineyard visits. 34 different countries were represented by the 216 participants. Founded and organized by Gabriella and Ryan Opaz of Catavino, and Robert McIntosh of The Wine Conversation, the 2011 EWBC was the fourth European conference, following the 2008 EWBC in La Rioja, Spain, the 2009 EWBC in Lisbon, Portugal and the 2010 EWBC in Vienna, Austria.
Pictures: Gabriella and Ryan Opaz of Catavino, Robert McIntosh of The Wine Conversation and Christian G.E. Schiller from schiller-wine
This was my second EWBC; I participated in the EWBC 2010 in Vienna. Shortly before leaving the US, I was invited to the Kobrand Tour d'Italia 2011 in Washington DC, where I got an excellent introduction to the new releases of a range of top Italian wine producers.
Brescia, Monastery of Santa Giulia and Loggia
Brescia is a stately Italian town, tucked away in a quiet corner of Lombardy, at the foot of the Alps, close to Lake Garda and Lake Iseo, untouched by major tourism. Following Schloss Schoenbrunn in Vienna last year, this year’s conference venue was the historic Monastery of Santa Giulia, one of the best examples of High Middle Ages architecture in northern Italy. The Piazza della Loggia eponymous Loggia - the current Town Hall - built in 1492, where the final dinner took place, is is a noteworthy example of Renaissance piazza.
Pictures: Brescia, Monastery of Santa Giulia and Loggia
Just northwest of Brescia, in the heart of Lombardy, lies the greatest sparkling wine zone of Italy and one of the best in the world – Franciacorta. Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are the main grapes of Franciacorta sparklers, with a maximum of 15% Pinot Noir.
While local winemakers have produced still red and white wine for centuries, Franciacorta has emerged as a producer of sparklers only in the last 50 years. In 1995, when Franciacorta was elevated to DOCG status, the production of still wines - both white and red – became a separate DOC appellation - Terra di Franciacorta.
Among the many figures who have contributed to the recent success of Franciacorta's bubblies is Maurizio Zanella, founder of the renowned Ca' del Bosco and current President of the Consortium. In 1980, Maurizio Zanella, after having studied at the Station Œnologique de Bourgogne and at the University of Enology in Bordeaux, decided to start his own production of sparklers and soon after Ca' del Bosco's Franciacorta became an important reference point for the whole area. As opposed to the Champagne area, there are no large producers who buy the grapes from other producers. The yearly production of a Franciacorta producer rarely exceeds 400,000 bottles. The 104 Consortium members that produce Franciacorta represent 97% of all producers.
Thursday (October 13)
There were three optional events.
First, City Tour of Brescia.
Second, Pirlo Talks: This was a 3 hour session of focused networking, where people could present their projects or share with others what they are working on; I missed that one.
Picture: Pirlo - Brescia's Popular Before Dinner/Lunch Drink
Third, in the evening, the traditional “Bring Your Own Bottle” (opening) party took place at Hotel Vittoria. This was a very relaxed and informal opportunity to greet fellow participants and network with a bottle of your favorite wine in hand. People brought wine from all over the world. I brought 2 dry Rieslings from Germany and the USA: A 2010 Kruger-Rumpf Riesling, Quarzit, Nahe, Germany and a 2008 Dr. Frank Riesling, Finger Lakes, USA.
Pictures: The 2 Bottles I brought to the EWBC 2011 - A 2010 Kruger-Rumpf Riesling, Quarzit, Nahe, Germany and a 2008 Dr. Frank Riesling, Finger Lakes, US
I also enjoyed the selection of Italian cheeses and charcuterie, in particular the Mortadella di Bologna and the Prosciutto di Parma.
Friday (October 14)
The first day started out with two tastings: Austrian Sweet Wine and International Sparkling Wines. I missed both tastings as they were already full, when I wanted to book them, but I had a chance to taste the Austrian sweet wines later during the EWBC 2011.
Pictures: Austrian Noble Sweet Wines
Keynote: What is Storytelling? – Jeremy Parzen, Evan Dawson, Emily Troutman, Paolo Casalis
Opening Keynote – led by George Taber. George Taber is a renowned wine writer from the US, who participated in the famous 1976 Bordeaux/California Tasting in Paris and has written a book about it, on which the movie The Judgment of Paris was based. I had a bit of time to talk to him during the final dinner where we were sitting at the same table.
Picture: Opening Keynote led by George Taber
Introduction to Franciacorta Wine
The Sparklers of Franciacorta were introduced to us by Maurizio Zanella (Ca' del Bosco) and Riccardo Ricci Curbastro (Ricci Curbastro).
Picture: Maurizio Zanella (Ca' del Bosco)
Walkaround Franciacorta Tasting
Pictures: Franciacorta Tasting
Dinner: In the evening, we split up and went to 4 Franciacorta wineries by bus. There, we toured the winery and then had a sit-down dinner. At each of the 8 or so tables, one wine producer was present and while we all had the same food, we would have the wines of the wine producer at the table.
I was put on the bus to il Mosnel and I chose the table of Lucia Barzano (il Mosnel). At il Mesnil, we were all treated to the food of 1 star Michelin chef Stefano Cerveni from due colombe. The dinners did not end before midnight; some of us came back only at 2:00 in the morning.
Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at il Mosnel with Lucia Barzano from il Mosnel and Chef Stefano Cerveni from due colombe
Saturday (October 15)
Saturday was the day of seminars (in the morning) and Italian wine (in the afternoon).
Morning: Becoming a Better Storyteller – Seminars and Panel
Telling stories with video - Paolo Casalis: People walked around Brescia and Paolo provided tips on how to frame your shot, make it interesting and engage your audience effectively.
Becoming a Better Story Teller - George Taber
Improving your oral storytelling skills - Evan Dawson
Telling stories with photos - Emily Troutman: Emily explained how to move beyond the snapshot and learn what it means to tell a story with images.
Tech For Storytelling - Ryan Opaz: Ryan explored the new world of tools for storytelling, from audio podcasts to twitter streams.
Panel: The Wine Stories Yet to be Told – Jeremy Parzen, Catherine Liao, Elisabetta Tosi, Damien Wilson and moderated by Evan Dawson
Lunch with Wines of Chile
Blogger Stories – Stories from Bloggers: For an hour, participants shared the stage and told us their stories. I in particular liked the story of German winemaker and blogger Thomas Lippert, who told his story of a heart attack, surgery and participation a few months later in the 1. EWBC.
Picture: Thomas Lippert
Wines of Italy - Walk Around Tasting
Pictures: Wines of Italy
Closing Dinner at the Loggia: This was thought to be the climax of the event but left a sour note in everybody’s mouth. There was plenty of wine, a fantastic selection. You could take a bath in Italian wine, but the food service was terrible, to the point that people started to leave the event and Ryan ordered several dozens of Pizzas at the after party.
I had very interesting company at the table, including Gregory Dal Piaz from Snooth, winemaker and blogger Thomas Lippert and George Taber.
Pictures: George Taber and his wife, Gregory Dal Piaz from Snooth pouring wine and Christian G.E.Schiller with Gregory Dal Piaz and German Winemaker and Blogger Patrick Johner
Late After Party – Hotel Vittoria: Wine, beer and dancing … and pizza. On the dance floor, Michael Cox from Wines of Chile put on an amazing performance.
Picture: Ryan Opaz
Sunday (October 16)
We split up and went on various EWBC post- conference day trips to Franciacorta, Soave, and Alto Adige. I chose Soave.
Soave is a white wine produced in the surrounding area of the fascinating middle age village of Soave, between the picturesque cities of Venice and Verona in the eastern part of the province of Verona in Italy’s Veneto region.
The majority of the vineyards are in the hills. Beautiful centuries-old castles, churches, bell towers, and aristocratic villas are all part of the rich history and traditions of this area, and indicative of the region’s principal product, Soave wines.
The prevailing grape is the Garganega, the fifth most planted white grape in Italy. Soave must contain at least 70 percent of Garganega, and the rest can be Trebbiano, but Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are also allowed.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Elisabetta Tosi from fermenti digitali, who lead the Soave Tour
Pictures: Impressions from the Soave Trip
It was a great trip. We met niche producers, we drove through the breathtaking landscape, we also visited a large co-operative and enjoyed the Italian food. I had one of the best risottos ever in my live.
Picture: Risotto in Monteforte d'Alpone
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (October 17 to 19)
Participants had the option to choose among 2 EWBC post-conference trips. First, Chianti Classico – 3 days Friuli Venezia Giulia – 3 days 3 Days in the Chianti Classico Region. I went to Chianti Classico region.
3 Days in the Chianti Classico Region
The Chianti Classico’s 175,000 acres of production area is located between Florence and Siena in Tuscany. We stayed right in the center in the beautiful village of Radda in Chianti. This is the homeland of hundreds of DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) wines, the top of the qualitative pyramid for Italian enology, all bearing the unmistakable Black Rooster trademark and united by production regulations imposing strict standards: a minimum of 80% of Sangiovese grapes grown only in the “Chinati Classico zone of origin”, delimited in 1716 by an edict issued by Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III.
Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Marco Pallanti, President of the Chianti Classico Consortium and Owner/Winemaker at Castello di Ama
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Emanuela Strucchi Prinetti (Owner) at Badia a Coltibuono
Pictures: At Castello di Brolio
Picture: At Castello di Alma
Pictures: At Vignamaggio
Picture: Dinner at Dario Cecchini's Solo Cicca restaurant in Panzano
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Paolo Cianferoni, Owner/Winemaker, Caparsa Estate
Pictures: In Greve in Chianti and Prosciutto de Greve in Chianti
Picture: Radda in Chianti
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