I remember a couple of years ago at a wine bar in Fondamenta della Misericordia, a dear friend wanted me to taste his prosecco -a fully natural wine-, when another man standing next to us started teasing him, saying things like 'It took us so long to obtain this clear, sparkling prosecco... and now you want to return to nature and make us drink matte wines full of yeasts that taste bad'. My friend, a real gentleman, replied with a kind smile and then looked at me straight into the eyes and, at low voice, confessed that for that type of attitude he was finding it difficult to sell his wine in his own local area, whereas the most interested markets were London, New York and Sydney. Of course he was happy about the success his label was having in certain niche markets abroad, but at the same time he couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed, as he had made that wine with his own people in mind, exactly to allow farmers and workers to drink a healthy table wine, without chemicals or other additives.
So, what exactly is Natural Wine? The term is a bit controversial and it raised a series of discussions, but in general it is used to refer to wines obtained by organically grown grapes and through a chemical and preservative-free process. It differs from organic wine, as in the latter the ingredients must be organic, but then the process can see the addition of chemicals and sulphites. To produce natural wine, instead, the grapes used are only the native ones, the harvest is manual and the fermentation takes place inside the bottle, using exclusively the yeasts of the vine or naturally present in the producer's canteen. To produce fizzy wines, the only sugar employed is the one of the grapes. (To learn more, see my post 'Prosecco Making: Costa di Là' post).
In Venice there is an increasing attention and sensitivity toward this type of agriculture and farming methods. A key role is played by the association Laguna nel Bicchiere, founded in 1993 by high-school professor Flavio Franceschet, who started a series of local vine recovery operations, combining them with educational programs aimed at the safeguarding of the territory and at involving the local population in such virtuous practices (read my 'Venetian wine and crostini with mushrooms for the aperitivo' post). The association has grown a lot over the years, but the spirit has never changed. I feel grateful that so many volunteers get together and literally dirty their hands with soil to maintain the environment, the meetings are tiring -because they all work hard- but fun and often end with a picnic lunch, for which everyone brings something from home (Have a look at Laguna nel Bicchiere's website in case you'd like to support/become a member).
Anyway, with this said, I gathered a short list of places where it's possible to drink natural wine by the glass, standing and rigorously accompanied by a nibble. I did not include the restaurants that offer natural wine, but be aware there is a circuit and the ones I like the most are: Anice Stellato, CoVino and Osteria Trefanti. I want to specify -once again- that this is a personal blog and I am including the places I am aware about, so... if you think I left someone important out, just drop me a line and I'll be happy to go check out your recommended location. PLEASE NOTE: Most of these places DO NOT serve spritz. I know that spritz is sold to the world as the most typical Venetian aperitif, but the concept and the ingredients used for making spritz are opposite to the concept of natural wine and landscape preservation, therefore... I agree with them! But now, let's start drinking. I've divided the list between left and right side of the Canal Grande.
LEFT SIDE OF THE CANAL GRANDE
Adriatico Mar Address: Dorsoduro, Calle dei Preti o del Pistor 3770 Phone: +39 041 47 64 322
Cosy wine-bar with a great selection of wine, freshly made cicheti and small dishes. The managers, Francesco and Siria, pay great attention to the environment and have carefully selected their suppliers, in fact us lucky ones who live here get to savour different products during the year. Right now I'm in love with their citrus and with the herring, but in general the food is always excellent. All wine is natural and the same is true also for liquors and spirits, while the food is organic. In the picture above, my vegetarian lunch with organic eggs from Donna Gnora farm, kale, asparagus, fresh peas, agretti (OMG... so good!) and green apple. Highly recommended.
Address: Dorsoduro, Calle San Pantalon 3778
Phone: +39 041 47 64 914
Both restaurant and wine-bar, Estro has acquired quite a reputation in Venice and beyond. The wine list is selected with great care and they take part to all natural-wine events. Excellent spot both if you want to have a glass of wine and a cicheto standing or prefer to sit down for a proper meal. Like at Adriatico Mar, here you will see some watercolours by Luigi Divari, a local artist who has been depicting fish and fishermen of the lagoon, simply wonderful...
Cantina Arnaldi Address: Santa Croce 35 Phone: +39 041 718989 I love love love this wine bar so much I recommend it to everyone! Katia and Andrea, the managers, are wonderful and the staff is always so kind and helpful that I have elected Cantina Arnaldi as my top favourite! Natural wine, beautiful wooden interior, delicious cicheti (some of the cheese and of the cured meats are produced by Katia's aunt) and small dishes for a light lunch/dinner. Super!
Address: Santa Croce 1503, Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio Phone: +39 041 524 02 22 A guarantee of quality and relaxation, this cosy wine bar with a beautiful terrace overlooking Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio is a great place for quality wine and snacks. The bread is homemade, the cured meats and cheese are sourced locally by Stefano (I love imagining him in his car, wandering around the region, stopping at different farms and tasting everything... tough life, ah?) and the wine chosen with great care. Excellent. I suggest calling them if you wish to sit down, as it is always very busy and as soon as spring hits... everyone aims at their terrace, where the shade is offered by the trees!
Address: Santa Croce 2166, 30125 (map) Phone: (+39) 340 134 2140
Lovely novelty opened in 2020 by a group of 4 friends. Located in narrow Calle Longa, this wine bar offers a well selected list of natural wine and a short seasonal menu including cold cuts, cheese, fish and vegetables. The location alone is worth a visit, perfectly blending contemporary elements with the original architecture. The small red-brick courtyard with a well and bas-reliefs is definitely a plus.
RIGHT SIDE OF CANAL GRANDE