Vinitaly, the established annual Italian wine and spirits trade fair now in its 40th year, took place in Verona between 6 and 11 April, and marked this special birthday in style, with a 10% to 15% increase in global business. "It has been the best Vinitaly in 30 years," said Angelo Gaja, owner and president of Gaja Winery.

Gaja's view was echoed by another stalwart of the Italian wine business, Sandro Boscaini, CEO of Masi. "It has been a very positive Vinitaly," Boscaini said. "There was a notable increase in premium foreign buyers from Asia, Central America and other far-placed countries.  Finally we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and pull out of the prevailing slump."

Renzo Cotarella, managing director at the Tuscan wine company Antinori, added: "A definite new wave of hope in the wine world seems to have brought a positive trend to business, with particular focus on exports."

Vinitaly 2006 hosted some 144,000 visitors over the five days, representing a slight increase on last year's total of 143,000, with a total of 4,200 exhibitors from over 30 countries. In addition, the show was attended by 2,600 journalists from over 50 countries.

Over the past two or three years, Veronafiere has made a conscious effort to reduce the level of public attendance and improve facilities for the trade. A noted increase in foreign visitors and restaurateurs set a new record over previous years.

Seminars, guided tastings and food and wine pairings are all part of the show.  This year to celebrate the 40th anniversary, Veronafiere organised a unique international seminar examining the elements shaping the future of international winemaking presided and monitored by Serena Sutcliffe, MW. 

The seminar, entitled "The Young Lions of Winemaking…The Way to the Future", showcased a panel of mostly young premium wine producers, including Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon of Champagne Louis Roederer, Philippe Guigal, Angelo Gaja, Peter Sisseck of Pingus and David Powell of Torbreck.

"The producers on this panel are symbolic of all those who will be making wine over the next decades," said Sutcliffe.  "They are aware of the markets and the challenges they face as winemakers."  Sutcliffe and the panel discussed a number of current issues, such as the effects of climate change, fiercer competition and changing wine styles and production methods.

Italy's trade magazine Civiltà del Bere hosted an equally well-attended tasting and panel of top Italian winemakers entitled 'Italy's Mythical Wines' which showcased Italy's top 'mythical' wines voted by the international trade, restaurateurs and journalists.  The wines on show included Ferrari's Riserva del Fondatore 1995, Giacomo Contrno's Barolo Monfortino Riserva 2001, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia's Masseto 1997 and Sassicaia 1998.

Among the hype and buzz of the show's success, words of wisdom rang out from Lamberto Vallarino, CEO of Gancia, reminding Italian producers that Italy's hottest competition comes from New World wines. "In order to compete with these markets we still need to focus on quality, terroir and geographical indication which are part of our heritage and wealth, while keeping a check on pricing."

Although Vinitaly remains Italy's most important wine trade fair, it is to a degree a victim of its own success and its 80,000 square metres of exhibition space is bursting at the seams.  The yearly problems related to lack of parking, lack of hotel rooms, and terrible traffic congestion were present during this year's show. It is a trade fair that the sector cannot do without but it has many unresolved problems, including overcrowded exhibition halls lacking proper ventilation.