Venice for the Wine Lover

A quiet spot in a city of water, a city most commonly associated with tourists fighting pigeons for space in front of the Piazza San Marco, gondolas gliding down the canals and Harry’s Bar, the birthplace of the Bellini.  There is so much to see in this city that has the look of a movie set.  For the  wine lover, Venice is so much more.

Let the Ombra Begin

There is a tradition in Venice called the Ombra. The literal translation is shade. To Venetians, it means a glass of red wine. Some say the origin of the term comes from the wine sellers who sold their wares in the shadow of the tower in Piazza San Marco. Another story claims it came from the fishermen who worked each morning in the baking sun. Once they unloaded their small boats, heavy with their catch of the day, they retreated into small bars which lined the dock for a glass of red wine or Ombra.  My favourite story, echoed by the concierge at the Hotel ai Mori D’Oriente,  is that Ombra became a noun that refers to strolling from one small bar to another for a glass of wine, a pub crawl of sorts for the oenophile as in  “We are going for an Ombra.

Paradise Found

Paradiso Perduto (Translation: Paradise Lost)  topped  the recommended list and it turned out to be the perfect place to start our Ombra. We each had a glass of the house Prosecco, gentle bubbles of the lightest kind.   Outside, tables laden with cichetti or Venice’s answer to Tapas, lined the canal.  From roasted vegetables to fried shrimp, octopus, Baccala and  zucchini flowers.  Simple, fresh and affordable. 

The Real  Wine Thing

Our  best find of the day, just a few steps away,  has clearly been found before. Vino Vero is a small wine bar  with a dozen seats inside and a few tables outside. You know when you walk into a bookstore and can tell instantly  it is run by someone who truly loves books? That’s the feeling at Vino Vero.

There are about 200-300 wines here. So much choice but somehow Esmerelda, who handles the bar, makes it approachable.  “Give me something I have never tried before,” I asked.  Esmerelda pulled out two wines to try before committing  which  goes a long way to building my loyalty.

First up:  Esmerelda suggested  a sparkling wine called MUNI made from Durella, a white grape native to  Northern Italy. It was fruity, classic and elegant – with plenty of spritz. However, sparkling wine is the only spritz you’ll find at Vino Vero. There’s a  sign on the counter that warns – No Spritz –  just in case someone was considering ordering the popular Aperol cocktail.  In case you doubted their policy – “Nospritz” is even the WIFI password .

Esmerelda then pulled out a bottle of Slavcek 2012 –  a Merlot from Slovenia –  for me to sample.  Deep ruby red, dry and delicious. She is extremely knowledgable, with a lovely blog of her own called Yeasteria.it, focusing  on Italian bio-dynamic wine and beer.

Woman of Wine: Esmerelda
Vino Vero Regulars Chris and Vivian

We shared a drink with Chris and Vivian from Queensland, who were at the bar for the third time – proof that while the wines make Vino Vero worth visiting, the atmosphere and service make it worth the trip back.

Cannaregio District:  Both bars are located in the Cannaregio district. It’s the historical Jewish quarter and far from the cruise travellers and tourists armed with selfie sticks. A 10-minute walk from the train station and 20 – 30 minutes walk from most of Venice’s most popular sights.

Vino Vero, Fondamenta Misericordia 2497, 30100 Venezia

Paradiso Perduto, Fondamenta Misericordia 2540, 30100 Venezia

The Prosecco Trail

I love prosecco.

I love it in the morning with a dash of OJ (for colour), as an afternoon palette cleanser, or a toast before dinner.

Prosecco turns any event into a celebration.

I am in great company.   More than 355 million bottles were sold worldwide in 2015 and the demand is still growing.

About 90% of prosecco comes from a region just north of Venice.  There you’ll find the  Strada of Prosecco, a 47-km trail lined with sparkling wine cantinas. 

We got the chance to tour one of the prettiest wineries in the region in late September.  And the prosecco was the lure.

Pitars is a fourth generation producer in San  Martino al Tagliamento, about 90 minutes north of Venice. 

The staff was setting up for a wedding the day  we visited. This place is so gorgeous, such a perfectly romantic setting,  it almost made me want to convince my husband to renew our vows.  Almost.  We opted instead  for a few toasts – mostly counting our lucky stars to be there.

After the tour, hospitality director Valentino Florian led us through a tasting of half a dozen wines.  Plan to spend some time.  They have 20 wines, each worth sampling.  White grapes rule the region. Most of fields in the area are planted with Glera grapes and used for prosecco.  I loved its aromatic flavour and bubbles that tingled on the way down. I especially loved their sparkling Ribolla Giallo – a white grape gaining popularity in Canada. 

Pitars produces eight whites and  four reds. Their  portfolio includes a Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Naos, a knockout red blend.  My cousin Lindo claims the only good wines in the world are produced in this region. 

“Un minuto!” I responded. “California, France, Canada, Spain? What about Tuscany?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders “I suppose I will give you Tuscany,” Lindo said .

Finally, the price.  A bottle of award-winning prosecco was SIX EUROS. Even with a generous exchange, that’s $9 CDN.  A  prosecco of this quality in Canada sells for more than twice the price.

As we were leaving, my husband tried to persuade me  to take home a dozen bottles, until I reminded him he was the one who challenged me to do carry on only.

That’ll teach him.

If you find Pitars on the shelves, try it first…then let me know!

Bonus Cocktail discovery:

Italian Lemonade uncovered at a Bistro in Canmore Alberta – Amounts vary to taste but I used:

1 cup of Limoncello from the freezer

Juice from 2 lemons

1/2 bottle of Prosecco

1-2 teaspoons of sugar (optional and to taste)

Top with sparkling water.

on ice.