Saving Venice’s vines

Matteo Bisol amongst the vines at Venissa

When I first heard about Venissa, I was baffled. Think of Venice and its waterways, and viticulture is unlikely to be the first thing to come to mind. But the lagoon as a long history of agriculture, with vines long an integral part of that tradition. And the indigenous Dorona grape, rescued from the brink of extinction by Gianluca Bisol (the Prosecco patriarch), has adapted to this waterlogged environment. The resulting wines are unique, really. Savoury, saline, pithy, textured and – with age – increasingly nutty. Wines that sit on the spectrum of Fino and Manzanilla, Savagnin sous voile and white Hermitage – they’re whites that deserve food, time and attention.

I sat down with Matteo Bisol, Gianluca’s son and Venissa’s CEO/winemaker, to talk about the wines and his family’s remarkable quest to save Venice’s viticultural heritage.

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Catching up

A shot from a recent trip to Rioja: this is one of the vineyards used by CVNE for Imperial

Between studying for the MW and work, it’s been a busy year. The last few weeks have seen stops in Tuscany, Bordeaux, Rioja and Burgundy – and there’s much to report on. For now, here’s an update on jottings that you might have missed.

  • Bordeaux 2021: With primeurs week back with a bang this year, I spent an enlightening and exhausting 10 days exploring the 2021 vintage and Bordelais hospitality. It was a fascinating year to explore and there was a surprising openness from producers when it came to the challenges of this tricky season. From my first thoughts to a full report and guide by commune, I wrote extensively about it. Maligned by some of the critics, I think it’s a remarkable result given what they faced. These may not be the most age-worthy wines, but I think there’s a lot of pleasure to be had if you know where to look.
  • Tate & Lyle: Inspired by Bordeaux, I took a look at chaptalisation – something that returned to the forefront in Europe in 2021. Suddenly young producers were having to learn how to master this age-old technique to craft wines that had sufficient alcohol (and everything that comes with that – more here). It’s a nerdy read, but fascinating to see the difference of opinion – and taste the results.
  • A South African interlude: Ahead of the latest release, Klein Constantia arranged a fantastic vertical tasting of their iconic sweet wine at Trivet (my first visit, and the food was exceptional). I’ve always had a soft spot for the wine and it was interesting to taste so many vintages. Perhaps some were a little disappointing, but the trajectory is inspiring, with brighter acidity, precision and balance. Read my spotlight on Vin de Constance on FINE+RARE.
  • Burgundy 2021: After a whistle-stop three days in the region, here are my initial thoughts on the vintage. So far, it’s hard to offer a firm view. There is so much more to taste and explore and I can’t wait to get out there later in the year to delve into it fully. At the moment I am a little concerned about the varying quality of reds, although there’s promise in the whites. More to follow later this year.

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