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A New Project about natural Wine: an interview with Laura Riolfatto

Wine Expert in Venice Italy - Natural Wine tasting
Portrait by Anna Bussolotto

In this post I want to introduce you to Laura Riolfatto, a dear friend with a very interesting project. I met Laura years ago as she was working in the contemporary art industry and I was an art student. Over the years, we got to know each other a little better and recently she started a new adventure in the wine world. Her project is about wine storytelling and tasting, in a new and unconventional way, it is centered on natural wine and moved by an inner passion.

She is the person to contact in Venice if you are looking for a new way to taste wine, get to know the city from this point of view and discover producers in the Venetian islands. But now, let's start with our brief interview:

Natural Wine in Venice Italy - Wine Tasting and storytelling

Where does your passion for wine come from?

I was born and raised in Padua, and when I was about 14 years old my family moved to the area of the Euganean Hills, where they had grown up.I was brought up among the woods, in a territory entirely vocated to wine production, so wine has always been part of my life.

My grandparents, uncles, my brother, everyone in the family produces wine, either for necessity of for the family business. Observing and walking among vineyards, attending the pruning and harvesting phases, all this has always been normal for me. The canteen was a magical place, sometimes banned, thus listening to the sound of the fermentation or of the pressing, as well as being able to taste the must, represented unique moments in my childhood. I have always been fascinated by nature and by the transformation of plants over the seasons, especially grapevine, which I consider amazing. Still today, when I think of the hills, I remember those emotions, the warm colors of autumn, the noise of the tractors that go up and down the hills and the intense perfumes that came from the canteens.

Natural Wine in Venice Italy - Wine Tasting and storytelling

Wine has also always been an unmissable element on our dining table, considered as a food itself, to enrich with other flavors; I have never seen a dish unaccompanied by a good wine and have been raised thinking that all this is normal and essential for conviviality and for enjoying a meal. Then, I arrived in Venice, thanks to my love for art. I was 19 years old, a young student of the Academy of Fine Arts and had remained impressed by this city so rich in art and history, surrounded by a marvelous lagoon and with a slow pace you can't find anywhere else. I decided to stay here. My studies, my job, and also my love affairs...well, all those things were going in the opposite direction of the one of wine, but I kept waiting for the moment to pick up this passion again and deepen my knowledge further.


In 2020, with the pandemic, many things changed in my life and I was finally able to slow down and take the due time to re-start studying, so I started the international WSET courses and obtained two certifications and am now a recognized Ais sommelier. Of course, this is just a new beginning, because research and practice must be constant and ongoing. At the moment I still don't know what the future holds for me in this sphere, but meanwhile I continue with my project, I write and take pictures of wine, and am continuously stimulated.


Years ago I would visit artists in their studios, now I visit wine producers. My method is similar, although applied to a different sphere. I like to think that there is a common thread, between art and wine, as behind them there are always a lot of research, projects, failures, successes and multiple productions.


Why have you decided to narrate the territory?

Natural Wine in Venice Italy - Wine Tasting and storytelling

The territory or the culture of the territory is a place that can be identified through people. It is the people that link emotions to lands, through their social, cultural, political and relational experiences. This for me represents an added value and a patrimony to enhance and to make known. Italy is a huge botanical garden, one of the European countries richer in biodiversity and with a great variety of climatic and geological zones, as of course an extremely diverse flora. Our History, our Culture, and our Agriculture were shaped in this context, rich in excellences like viticulture, which through the centuries was able to modify and shape lands, adding value and emotions to many rural areas. I believe it is important to create awareness of such value, made up of tradition and innovation, in a cultural context where wine continues to represent and identify the areas in which it is produced.


What changes are you hoping for in the traditional approach towards wine?

Wine Expert in Venice Italy - Natural Wine tasting
Wine Expert in Venice Italy - Natural Wine tasting

My professional experiences derive from the world of contemporary art, which has given me great emotions, but alse signs, images, shapes, colors, and words... on the one hand I would like this aesthetic and cultural vision to permeate other spheres. Often the wine world is extremely 'formal' and 'strict', whereas I believe that more fluent and creative languages could attract a bigger audience, with emotional and more creative and particular experiences.

I am thinking of wine-tourism, a field that is developing in Italy. It is important to invest in this sector to create awareness about the environment, the landscape and the territories of wine, to make known the difficult and at the same time beautiful processes behind the production of each wine, and their impact on the landscape and soil. It is not possible to only taste wine, or only organize events where people drink, I think there should be a greater and more focused attention on the theme, and make everyone feel part of the process and possibly make them fall in love with this world.


Food and wine pairing, why do you think vegetables are often underestimated?

I read a survey of the National Consumer Union from 2017 which asked a sample of about 100 people if they were satisfied by the vegetable options offered by restaurants and over 71% responded no and that they would like to find more fruit and veg on the menus! I have to agree, often in the medium range restaurants, vegetables are relegated to side dishes, sometimes very limited, and seasonal vegetables are only used only in traditional recipes.

This is true also for what concerns wine and food pairings. Vegetables often are only present in a tiny percentage in a dish based on carbs or proteins, quite rarely contemplated as main ingredient.

Things are slowly starting to change, because nowadays there is a lot more attention about nutrition and food properties and more modern chefs are making research in this sense, introducing more greens and less animal proteins. Thank goodness this is leading to new wine and food pairings. I find this match fascinating and at home I am trying new combinations, with dishes in which vegetables make up at least 80% of the whole, sometimes a bit risky, but most times with good results. In Alto Adige I tasted a creamy beetroot soup, with mixed seeds and edible flowers paired with a Pinot Noir and really loved it.

Wine Expert in Venice Italy - Natural Wine tasting
Wine Expert in Venice Italy - Natural Wine tasting

Last question: a white and a red wine from the Veneto you are particularly fond of.

The Veneto is my region of origin, the wines I am fond of aren't necessarily the ones I prefer taste-wise, but the ones that represent important moments. I cannot exclude from my list of reds Amarone della Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso, a Rosso Colli Euganei and a Piave Malanotte. As for the white wines, I would choose a Garganega, a vine I am extremely attached to, and I am also thinking of the more elegant expressions of certain Soave wines and of the production of certain wines macerated on the skins from the Euganean Hills. Last but not least, I must include a fresh sparkling wine like Lessini Durello Spumante.

Wine Expert in Venice Italy - Natural Wine tasting

I am grateful for the time Laura has taken to reply to my questions and am fascinated by her project. For all those of you who are interested about wine and wish to learn more about our landscape and territory, I invite you to visit her website www.laurariolfatto.com , and browse through the English section ;)


Bye for now and thank you for reading.

Yours,

Nicoletta

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