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Outdoor Dinner For 1,000 Guests Celebrates Bolgheri Wines

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 6, 2021

Consider hosting a dinner for a thousand guests who will sit at a half-mile long row of outdoor tables before eating four courses and drinking from a list of 120 different wines. Without roofing or umbrellas available—clear weather is essential.

As they prepared for this massive dinner this past Saturday in Tuscany, Italy, the organizers from the Bolgheri wine consortium were acutely aware of this.

It was not a sure thing.

Two days before the dinner, the weather forecast included rain. Perhaps the Etruscan deity Fufluns—god of wine and happiness—intervened, because the forecast suddenly switched. Sunshine blazed on Saturday, while the evening stayed generally clear with deliciously ambient temperatures.

Near the western coast of Tuscany, close to the Mediterranean Sea, this Cena di Gala—gala dinner—was served at tables lining the iconic and temporarily closed road known as Viale dei Cipressi—Cyprus Avenue. This route is flanked by decades-old, beautiful and bushy cypress trees and links the village of Bolgheri to San Guido, where this viale then intersects a perpendicular north-south road—Via Vecchia Aurelia—that runs parallel to the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Guests wearing jackets and heels arrived at 8:00 p.m. via cars and shuttle busses, then sat at individually designated seats at sumptuous tables lined with vine leaves and punctuated with massive floral arrays. After guests sipped aperitivi, the sun sank, table candles flickered, wine and food were served, background music pulsed from interspersed amplifiers and colored lights illuminated cypress trees in the background.

Perfetto.

This huge and beautifully coordinated dinner was organized by the Bolgheri wine consortium, or Consorzio per la Tutela dei Vini DOC Bolgheri e DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia. Founded in 1995, the consortium promotes, protects and manages Bolgheri wine appellations. Its board is comprised of representatives associated with iconic Italian wines—including Antinori, Ornellaia e Masseto, Tenuta San Guido and Le Macchiole. It represents 60 producers who grow vines on 3,385 acres, or 13 square miles (1,370 hectares, or 34 square kilometers) of land within the appellations of Bolgheri.

Dinner included dishes even picky diners would describe as delicious: Tuscan tomato purée with Marzolino sheep cheese and basil, pasta gemelli with white meat and rosemary ragout, pork tenderloin with juniper berries and julienned veggies, and vanilla ice cream with raspberries and almond crumble. Dishes were paired with wines from four denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) regions within Bolgheri: Vermentino/Bianco, Rosato, Rosso, and Superiore and Sassacaia.

This second iteration of the gala (the first was held in 2019 for a ‘mere’ 750 guests to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the DOC consortium) was a celebration of wine and camaraderie by Bolgheri winemakers. This subset of Tuscan vignerons burst onto the scene in the 1970’s when they showcased wines made not form Italian varieties such as Sangiovese, but from French Bordeaux and Rhone varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.

A host’s amplified voice explained, first in Italian and then English, that this year’s dinner was intended as ‘a symbol of our consortium and of Italian quality.’ She also introduced the event as the first effective ‘primeurs’ wine tasting for the Bolgheri region, as well as a celebration of the overall ‘elegance and intensity’ of the 2020 vintage.

The rise of Bolgheri’s prestige is linked with the rise of Sassicaia, which gained worldwide attention in the 1970’s after producing quality wine using Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc—grape varieties associated with Bordeaux in France, rather than with Italian varieties such as Sangiovese. Word spread, vineyards began to proliferate in the region and eventually large investments in vine tracts began pouring into the plains and hills surrounding the village of Bolgheri during the late 90’s.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot now dominate the plantings in Bolgheri, followed by Petit Verdot, Syrah and Sangiovese. For white wines—the predominant varieties are Vermentino, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.

At this linear row of long tables, diners began drinking white wines (such as L’Iracondo Vermentino from Podere Sette), then moved onto reds (such as Guidalberto from Tenuta San Guido—a silky and integrated beauty with seductive spice and red fruit) or a Caravèra from Podere dei Musi.

An hour before midnight, hundreds of guests raised their glasses in final toasts of celebration—of the closing of summer, of harvest, of recent excellent vintages—and as a way of giving thanks to those who craft beautiful wines—despite the ever looming unpredictabilities of weather.

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