Merano Wine Festival: 1500 Wines and a Surge in Attendance. The Success of the 2023 Edition

Marco Colognese
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An important opportunity to take stock of the innovations and evolution of an ever-changing industry, thanks to the talks at the “Respiro e Grido della Terra”, (Breath and Cry of the Earth) Summit, addressing themes related to the future of viticulture. Highlights of the Merano Wine Festival 2023.

The event 

"The pursuit of excellence in the world of food and wine is never-ending because the evolution of technologies and agricultural techniques knows no defined limits. Excellence is a concept that must go hand in hand with respect for the fertility of our planet. Where man does not caress the territory in which he lives, the Earth responds with all those upheavals that we increasingly observe." Thirty-two years have passed since Helmuth Köcher began an adventure that, since 1992, has transformed into one of the most relevant wine events in Italy.

Helmuth Kocher credit Point of View Federico Testa e Runggaldier
@Point of View Federico Testa e Runggaldier

From November 3 to 7, with six and a half thousand attendees, over six hundred exhibitors including wineries, producers of gastronomic excellences, spirits, and beers, fifteen hundred wines for tasting, three hundred fifty labels in the Winehunter Area, and seventeen hundred fifty Awards.

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Additionally, indicating an expansion towards an international dimension, there were a hundred and twenty foreign buyers. Significant numbers, coupled with more than fifty events, including twenty-six masterclasses, book presentations, and nineteen guest chefs who played a leading role in special dinners and cooking shows. Crossing the threshold of the elegant Kurhaus is always an emotion, as it is filled with professionals and enthusiasts each year: an important occasion to meet again a year later and take stock of the innovations and evolution of an industry constantly in motion, thanks also to the talks of the “Respiro e Grido della Terra” (Breath and Cry of the Earth) Summit, addressing themes related to the future of viticulture in a geopolitical and environmental context that changes almost rapidly.

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"Last summer showed a series of climatic events such as drought and floods of an intensity never seen before," emphasizes Köcher. "From the terraces of the Kurhaus, from which the Merano Wine Festival historically unfolds, it is almost possible to glimpse the eastern peaks of the Similaun glaciers, which year after year retreat more and more. In 2017, the news came that after 7000 years of stability, even the glacier on Mount Ortles began to retreat. At the same time, viticulture rises to altitudes well above 1000 m, and in the valley, the scorching heat and drought make agriculture increasingly complex."

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Köcher's understanding of sustainability has also evolved, coining his neologism, "sosteconomics": "The precious concept of sustainability must be placed within a broader context where producers respect the land in every sector of the supply chain and, at the same time, while not giving up on doing business, envisions the future of their company in these terms." He further emphasizes, "In terms of respecting and caring for the land to be handed down to future generations, no to the half-full glass and yes to the full traceability of the entire supply chain."

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The event proves to be increasingly heterogeneous each year because, while wine remains the focus, important topics are discussed and emphasized, such as that of the dining room for the restaurant world. Hence the Best Front of House competition, organized by Luigi Cremona and Lorenza Vitali, in which the four finalists who will participate in the mid-May 2024 final at the Villa Reale in Monza were identified: Gianluca Grossi from Glam in Venice, Andrea D'Alonzo from Il Fenicottero Rosa Gourmet at Villa Abbondanzi in Faenza (Ra), Alessandro Scarsi from Trattoria Contemporanea in Lomazzo (Co), Alessia Rivano from Hostaria Ducale in Genoa. Additionally, the Godio Prize went to Martino Longo from Rifugio Fuciade at Passo San Pellegrino.

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Special mentions for "The Festival" section have also been enriched. Along with Platinum, a mention related to products that in 2023 scored above 95/100, and Next Platinum, where the 'promises' already awarded The WineHunter Award Gold for various categories are grouped, two new mentions have been introduced: Iconic is awarded to wines that, in addition to representing a reference of excellence, both nationally and internationally for a territory, have already been awarded The WineHunter Award Gold, have been on the market for at least 25 years, and are produced by companies in operation for at least 50 years. Unique, on the other hand, is the mention certifying labels already recognized with The WineHunter Award Gold, unique in terms of vinification and/or refinement, grape variety, or extreme or even heroic pedo-climatic conditions.

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As always, the organic and biodynamic showcase with organic, biodynamic, natural, orange, piwi (resistant), and integrated agriculture wines must be mentioned. The festival patron has been a pioneer in supporting this: in Merano this year, one hundred and sixty producers with over three hundred labels were featured. Finally, the Market of the Earth, curated by Slow Food Alto Adige, dedicated to Agitu Ideo Gudeta, the Trentino shepherd of Ethiopian origin adopted and killed by one of her collaborators.

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