• Nicoletta Fornaro

A Journey through Natural Wine in Venice


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.

Estro

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!

Al Prosecco

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!

RIGHT SIDE OF CANAL GRANDE

Vino Vero

Address: Cannaregio, F.ta della Misericordia 2497 Phone: +39 041 275 00 44

In only a few years, Vino Vero has become quite a reference point for the natural wine world. The name of the wine bar derives from one of the Italian definitions of natural wine and their popularity has grown so much they are opening soon another bar in Lisbon. The location in F.ta della Misericordia is bright and illuminated with natural light. The terrace outside overlooks a side of the San Marziale church, where some years ago a group of artist projected videos, and I personally think it's very fancy, with the wooden tables and the comfy dark green chairs. No table service, here you will find a wide variety of natural wine labels and delicious cicheti.

sullaluna Address: Cannaregio, F.ta della Misericordia 2535 Phone: +39 041 722 924

Well... those of you who kwon me are aware I adore this vegetarian teahouse and bookshop. The owners, Francesca and Rodolfo, are knowledgeable and kind and work very hard to protect the environment and are highly focused on educational activities for children. In addition to this, they also produce a very high quality prosecco called Lunatico, exactly because it follows the cycles of the moon and is produced with no addition of chemicals nor preservatives. At sullaluna, you will find a selected variety of natural wine labels, their own prosecco and an inviting offer of small organic dishes. I suggest to go there in the evening for a reinforced aperitif and, personally, I would sit outside and accompany my wine with a selection of cheese.

Antica Adelaide Address: Cannaregio, Calle Priuli 3728 Phone: +39 041 52 32 629

Both restaurant and wine-bar, in this friendly osteria you will be able to taste natural wine and yummy nibbles. Ask Alvise for recommendations on your wine, I'm quite sure he will make you try a variety of types....

Al Cicheto

Address: Cannaregio, Calle della Misericordia 367/A Phone: +39 041 71 60 37

Close to the train station and slightly hidden, at Al Cicheto the Salin brothers Simone, Matteo and Marco will welcome you with a glass of natural wine and tempt you with their cicheti. I suggest trying the polpette (fried meatballs).

Mascareta

Address: Castello, Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa 5183 Phone: +39 041 523 0744

A place that doesn't need any advertisement, Mascareta has been for many many years a reference point for natural wine lovers. Great place for wine and nibbles (but you can also sit down for a proper meal) and.... allow me get off topic, I highly recommend trying their gins!

So, I think this natural-wine wandering will keep you busy... and merry! Enjoy and let me know...

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