Venissa: an oasis on the island of Mazzorbo
29th October 2018: one of the biggest Acqua Alta on record in Venice.
A disaster in the land of the mountains of Veneto.
A day to forget.
A few days later I am on a vaporetto, heading to Burano: the water is back to its normal height, the skies are still grey with a bit of rain, but all and all, the weather has calmed down.
I am on my way to meet my dear friend Audrey Di Fruscia, the Resident Manager of Venissa, an oasis of peace, producers of a unique indigenous wine and also an Albergo Diffuso on the islands of Mazzorbo and Burano.
We meet for lunch at Osteria Al Museo (don’t worry, will tell you all about this place in another post soon) and over a few glasses of wine and some typical Venetian food (which was delicious by the way), Audrey tells me all about Venissa and the dream come true of Gianluca Bisol, the owner of Bisol, one of the most famous Prosecco producers in Valdobbiadene.
Venissa was born from an idea of Gianluca and his family: it is an act of love for Venice, but, above all, for the islands of Mazzorbo, Burano and Torcello, which Mr Bisol loves with a passion.
The estate consists of a cultivated area of about one hectare surrounded by an eighteenth-century wall, partly rebuilt in the following century, giving rise to a real case of “walled vineyard”. Inside the estate there are the manor house, the cellars, the barn and the storage for tools, now renovated and used as a hotel and a restaurant.
Coming from Burano you can enter through a gate open to the public, which leads you into a vineyard with lines of Dorona grapes, surrounded by beds of aromatic herbs, a vegetable garden with the typical artichokes of the island, the castraure, thistles, and other vegetables that serve as ingredients for the Michelin starred cuisine of the Venissa Restaurant, located on the estate.
There are also lots of suggestive sculptures and two buildings in the background: one has a dehors in front of a glass wall, the now world famous Venissa restaurant, the other building is the Osteria Contemporanea, perfect place for wine tasting activities and events, while at the main entrance there are tables where the bystanders can take an aperitif, overlooking the water bus stop of Mazzorbo.
The History of Venissa
Venice is a city renowned all over the world and is famous in history as a powerful maritime republic that traded all over the world.
It is a little known fact, though, that the cultivation of vines, was here widely present, with vineyards even in the area of Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal.
Listen, it is not such a crazy thought: in the past there were many vineyards in the lagoon, memories of that are in the names of the surrounding places : San Francesco della Vigna, Isola delle Vignole, to name a few.
The campi, the famous Venetian Squares, were used to grow vegetables, orchards and vineyards.
The Dorona of Venice, the grape grown by Venissa, is an autochthonous white Venetian vine, belonging to the Garganega family.
This white grape, over the centuries, has adapted itself to grow in contact with the soaked soils of the lagoon islands. Appreciated by the Doges since the fifteenth century, for its taste and color, simply golden, this grape was virtually lost during the flood of 1966, when the high waters covered for days the lowest land, destroying almost all the Venetian vineyards and crops.
In 2002 Gianluca Bisol found on a garden of Torcello some plants that, later on, after some research, were confirmed to be the Dorona of Venice.
So the Bisol family in 2007 rented the Mazzorbo estate, which is just less than one hectare, and restarted the Dorona cultivation with 88 plants, getting their first production year in 2010.
The Dorona Grape
My fellow Sommelier course student and also wine tasting guide at Venissa, Elisa, helps me through the tasting of this amazing wine: she explains its characteristics, the wine making procedure and all the techincal stuff.
One of the main characteristics of this variety of grape is the resistance to the difficult conditions of the habitat: consider that if we dig the earth, under 80 cm we can find the brackish water of the lagoon; moreover, during the high Venetian waters, the plant is able to withstand complete flooding for a few hours, without suffering permanent damages.
The grape cluster is a white berry with a golden color, with a very strong skin and is very sweet: in fact in the past it was also used as a table grape; the grape seeds have sweet scents, perfect for long maceration.
Wine Making at Venissa
Venissa wanted to maintain the tradition of Venetian vinification: a long maceration on the skins of at least 30 days, followed by another 24 months of aging in steel tanks – this is because in Venice, for obvious reasons, there were no cellars and therefore there was the need to extract the tannins that allowed the wine to withstand even the hottest summers.
The wine of Venissa
The result is a wine with 13° alcohol. This wine can be considered an Orange wine, a white wine that is in fact vinified as if it were a red wine and that, by the philosophy of Venissa, is left to be refined in a bottle for a few years before being tasted. The production is very limited: no more than about 3500 bottles, depending also on the vintage. Cultivation is organic.
Golden yellow color, almost like that of a sweet wine. Very aromatic, even if technically it is not an aromatic wine.
Audrey got me to taste a 2014 bottle. I was blown away…not at all what I was expecting!
Sapid, but not overwhelmed by the minerals. A very interesting wine!
And the bottle is also part of Gianluca Bisol passion for this territory: Wine, Gold and Glass!
In the design of Giovanni Moretti, famous Murano Glass producer, the label has been replaced by a pure gold leaf beaten by the current descendant of the ancient Berta Battiloro family, the last craftsman left in Europe able to transform gold into tiny sheets, an ancient profession that arrived in Venice from Byzantium back in the 11th century.
The application is carried out by hand. The bottle then is put to annealing in the furnaces of Carlo Moretti glassworks in Murano. The gold leaf is melted in the glass and each bottle is numbered by hand, engraving the number on the glass.
A real oenological rarity, cured and loved in every small detail.
And you can really understand the love of Bisol for these islands, when you stand in the garden of Venissa and admire the old church and Church tower.
Here you can breathe the air of ancient Venice, you feel like you are immediately transported back in time. Venice is over there, but here you are in the peace of Venice.
But Venissa is not only wine and vineyard (which can also be visited freely).
You can spend a few nights in the Wine Resort with its six rooms, or you can also stay in the Albergo Diffuso Casa Burano on the island of Burano.
Albergo Diffuso is an innovative concept of hospitality, launched in Italy in the early 1980s to revive small, historic Italian villages and town centres off the usual tourist track. Translated into English it means “dispersed hotel”, “scattered hotel” or “virtual hotel”, it is a hotel that is not in a single block, but converted out of various historic buildings in a small community….Wikipedia
Casa Burano offers 13 rooms, spread all over the island of Burano: breakfast is prepared daily in the restaurant of Venissa and delivered by hand every morning with beautiful wicker baskets.
Another perk of this beautiful location is that if you decide to book a meal at the Michelin Starred Hotel, included in the price of lunch or dinner is transportation from the mainland by taxi!
Maurizio Rossi at Venissa
Until 6th January 2019 you can visit, for free, the exhibition “Mestieri della Venezia Nativa” by the photographer Maurizio Rossi, who is present in the book Dream of Venice Black and White with some of his photos.
If you also want to take a guided tour of the vineyard and taste the amazing Venissa wine, book in advance: once there they will tell you its history and take you strolling through the vineyard, and finish off with a tasting in the osteria.
I would like to thank Elisa who gave me a wonderful tasting experience and Audrey for inviting!
Hope to be back soon!
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