“The Wings of Beauty”, this is the slogan, the motto, the mantra of the 30th edition of Merano Wine Festival. Quite obvious you may think, because Beauty has always been the star of all previous editions. So why emphasize it now? The reasons can be many, however I have some personal feelings about this choice.
It is undeniable that the flight of each and every one of us has been abruptly interrupted by the pandemic that forced us all in a cage out of necessity for a long time, caught up in a surreal dimension that does not belong to us at all. Man is a social animal, Aristotle wrote, and interaction via social media, which has certainly kept us close, is still only a substitute for reality. I do not know about you, but I need physical contact, the clinking of glasses, hugs and handshakes, the light in the eyes.
I am scared by Zuckerberg’s “Metaverse”, with its interconnected virtual and real worlds populated by avatars. This is certainly an opportunity for commercial communication and advertising, but it brings with it the risk of a profound distortion of reality, already sufficiently twisted on social networks. The fear that many may get lost, trapped in this virtual dimension, honestly makes my blood run cold. Is this really the future we hope for? Well, the Merano Wine Festival is the antithesis of all this, and I hope it will stay that way in the future! Not only it is exquisitely real, but it has all the timeless charm of celebrations from a past age. It is like the debutante ball, the grand feast of Food and Wine parading arm in arm on the red carpet amidst the flashes of photographers and the admiring glances of fans.
The evocative beauty of the Kurhaus contributes a great deal to the glamorous magic of this unique event; an Art Nouveau jewel built as a place of cultural and social gathering when the beautiful and sadly famous Princess Sissi made repeated visits to Merano with her large entourage. With its literary circles, concerts, and dances full of life and vibrant energy, the history of the Kurhaus is at times incredible. Built in neo-classicist style according to plans by Josef Czerny, originally it included only the current Pavillon des Fleurs. The grandiose expansion project, which had the ambition of creating an unparalleled architectural and artistic masterpiece, was interrupted by World War I however. And this is how the Kurhaus remained in its present form, with the distinctive Rotunda and the large Kursaal in exquisite Art Nouveau style. The copper roof was appropriated by the military authorities, and the magnificent building contributed moreover to the war effort with a military canteen, set up in the parterre, which provided 6,000 meals to soldiers each day.
We are light years away from the splendor and the smooth rhythms of that romantic era, which still echoes with a touch of melancholy along the Sissi’s Path wonderfully painted with the colors of fall. In our modert times where fast is beautiful, where a minimal, cold and impersonal style seems to be in vogue, where we want everything here and now because we are always in a hurry, the Grand Gala of Food and Wine staged by Helmut Chocher, AKA The Wine Hunter, is marked by such elegance, charm and timeless style that bring Beauty back to the forefront. Those spontaneous feelings of wonder during the experience, that develope through positive and sometimes moving emotional reactions are much needed nowadays!
Among show cooking, mixology contests, awards ceremonies and much more, the absolute and undisputed star of this Festival is always and only him: the Italian Wine of excellence. This edition with limited access has allowed for more relaxed tastings, and the dialogue with each glass and with each producer has been much deeper, much more intense. Winemakers with different stories, each so unique, different grape varieties, territories, and production choices, and yet united by the same passion, tenacity, and hard work, are able to bring a part of themselves, of their heart and soul into the glass each time. The neverending and respectful dialogue with Nature, and with their own land, allows them to write a new and exciting chapter of the history of wine every year, expressed in colors, aromas and flavors of unrepeatable nuances. There is a world of infinite and exciting beauty in every glass of wine, to be savored with calm, concentration and a pinch of devotion.
To wrap up this incredible three days experience, sealed with the sign of excellence, this thirtieth edition of Merano Wine Festival has really made us fly on the wings of beauty, in a flight of confidence and hope in the rapid relaunching of a strategic sector for Italy, the one of tourism and oeno-gastronomy that has received a very painful setback which, unfortunately, proved to be fatal for many businesses. We all dream of squares and streets full of tourists, bars and restaurants joyfully crowded, movie theaters, museums, sports centers without limitations and barriers, and a near future full of smiles with no more masks. Recovery is taking momentum indeed, but unfortunately normality still seems far away.