Think you know Nebbiolo? O mio babbino caro, think again.

I’m enthralled by Tri-Veneto wines, and seek to sing their praises whenever I get a chance. They’re made for what we eat around here; it’s only natural we “drink local.” But any wine enthusiast will seek out good wines no matter where they’re produced; and good locales will always offer a wide selection of palate-pleasers representative of the wide-wide world of wine.

That’s what happened the other evening at La Cantina*, when co-owner Andrea ported out a bottle for an impromptu tasting. It was a bubbly, so I was already half way to liking it: métode champagnoise is all to often overlooked as an after-dinner, evening-ending option. So, what do have we here…

A sparkling metodo classico but not Franciacorta? Not Trento DOC? Rose, OK, but, what color is that? Coral? no. Pink? nope. Sort of an intense, mauvish red, as if the dried rose hips you might find in your great- grandmother’s potpourri had soaked for hours in the perlage. Curiouser and curiouser… Lots of floral in the multifaceted nose, and in the mouth? Charming and unexpected. Fresh and sturdy, but not forceful or challenging or steely. People pleasing without being silly or soda-poppy. Just a pleasure.

It’s Nebbiolo in purezza, the same wine of the austere, head spinning Barolo fame, over whose massive calices who-knows-how-many of the world’s problems have been solved, late into the night, by its imbibers. And here it is, flouncing around, singing, lilting, but never leaving far behind its intense complexity, even as a wild rose.

Same grape, whooooole different wine. Grande nebbiolo

Erik, Paolo, Cristian and Federico are Erpacrife (formed by combining the first letters of their first name), and this is their wine. Nebbiolo harvested early to guarantee the acidity and contain the alcohol, soaked on the skins just long enough, even adding a short stint on wood. Then a second fermentation in the bottle with 24 months on the lees, and at the end, at the sboccatura, when the lees are removed, the wine is capped pas dose, dosage zerò, topped off only with identical wine. Not brut, not extra dry, not saten.

All of this would make little difference if the wine wasn’t, well, just delightful. It’s one of those that will stick, like the first, and still best Piccolit I ever tasted (I don’t think my eyebrows have been raised as high since), the Gavi Soldati La Scolca Millesimato d’Antan Rosè, the color of apricots with a perlage that would have gone on for centuries if I’d been able to resist drinking it, etcetera, etcetera.

I love these ad hoc discoveries; they’re the reason I almost never choose my own wine when eating at a trusted locale — just like ordering dinner, it’s best to ignore the menu and the list and just ask, what’s good today?

_____

* La Cantina is one of many locales in Venice that offer a great selection of wines by the glass and by the bottle. Located just off the Ca’ d’Oro stop on Campo San Felice, across the bridge in front of the church of the same name. Dinner reservations are essential.

 

photo credit Altissimoceto.it and Albergo-Ristorante il Cascinale Nuovo

Cook like a Ve-ne-tian: Settemari’s “The Venetian Fork”

“Se i voga come che i magna i riva sempre primi.” If they rowed like they ate, they’d always come in first.

This phrase is off the back cover of the hot-off-the-San Marco Press’s “Forchette Veneziane, A Venetian Cookbook” compiled and produced by members of the Settemari (Seven Seas) rowing club and cultural association. This club has the voga (Venetian rowing) at its heart, but always has a plethora of cultural initiatives in the works, from theatre productions, to Burano lace courses, to the Venetian of the Year award that they created over 30 years ago.

The latest is a charming cookbook, a compilation of recipes from Settemari members, both Venice-born and long-time local foresti da chissà dove, foreigners from who knows where.

This authentic collection, rather than choosing to be in one language or another, is in both (or  more precisely, all three): English on the left side, Italian (or Venetian) on the right. Works perfectly whether you’re attempting to learn one or the other (or the other) of them — or resigned to only one.

The recipes, instead of trying to be necessarily representative or dogmatically Venetian, are instead what people cook nowadays, and have for decades, for themselves and to share — which in Settemari’s case, is quite often. Did you know duck was a big part of Venetian cuisine? (You would if you thought about it for a bit, given that they’ve been quacking about the lagoon since before there was a Venice.) Try the Anatra Ripiena, a Redentore option when duck is a must-serve. Of course capesante, but Antonella M has included “Scallops with Cardoons,” adapted from a meal she ate at “a prestigious restaurant in Torcello” some time back. There’s Cus-cus di Barena, which requires neither cooking nor much space (read: boat). Pasta e fagioli yes, but for a hundred people (post regatta), with the advice that “the colder it is outside, the more people like it.” You find classics like the perfect Risi e Bisi (rice and peas), and others, that to be true to the recipe you may have to move here: “Artichokes and Friend Chicken” call for “60 castraure (first pruned) artichokes from Mazzorbo…

The Venetian Fork is €10, and you can purchase it here in almost any bookstore around town; it’s available now at the San Marco Press UK online sh0p (for US shipping as well), and seems to be available for international shipping from Amazon.co.uk. Shipping from Amazon.com will likely commence once they’re stocked.

Forchette Veneziane – Le ricette “casalinghe” della Settemari
A Venetian Cookbook – Recipes from the “Settemari” Club

San Marco Press
128 pages
ISBN: 978-0956782618

 

News on the Rialto Fish Market’s Future

Situation not as dramatic as first reports indicated — meno male (whew).

According to a February 6 article in La Nuova Venezia (here concisely translated), there was copious finger pointing between the City and Port on speculative news of the transfer of the Tronchetto wholesale fish market to Fusina — infuriating operators of the Rialto Fish Market  who announced a mobilization against the move that has also led to political controversy. Both ensure that nothing has been decided, however.

“The Port has submitted a proposal for a new market in Fusina” says commissioner of Commerce Carla Rey, “but that will be evaluated very carefully.”

Rey says that the Port Authority was responding to a request by the Comune, and which is now an official project to study the possibility of establishing a mainland market with a more convenient and modern facilities, on property held by the Comune to develop the Fusina port.

“The main objective of this study,” she continues, “is that 90% of the fish market sales are stocked from land and serve land-based markets, so a relocation would first support the expansion of the market and the growth trend in recent years, and second, reduce traffic on the Ponte della Libertà [the causeway across the lagoon into the city].”

The Port, however, insists that it “did not initiate the eviction of any activity in the area [of Tronchetto] nor that of the [Rialto] Fish Market. They are considering further expansion of the port and docks area, although nothing in the area now occupied by the Fish Market. In any case, the Port Authority is not carrying out and does not intend to pursue any project without the agreement, as required by law, of the city administration. “

In the meantime Venice citizens started an online petition against the possible closure of the Rialto fish market which – according to proponents – could be a by-product of the wholesale market relocation to the mainland.

[I signed it. Non si sa mai, You never know…]

(For the original article in Italian see Feb 6, La Nuova Venezia, E.Tantucci)

 

Bio Wine Tasting at the Monaco

Wine enthusiasts who happen to be in town on Sunday, February 13th can participate in a tasting of a plethora of bio and biodynamic wines of the region, offered by AIS (Associazione Italiana di Sommeliers) at the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal. €15 entrance fee includes your tasting glass; there are guided tastings (in Italian) at 11am and 5pm by reservation only (send requests to aisveneto [at] libero.it).

  • When: Sunday, February 13
  • Where: Hotel Monaco Grand Canal
  • 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (producers start packing up at 6pm, though)
  • guided tastings at 11 am & 5pm (€10 ea, in Italian, by reservation only aisveneto [at] libero.it
  • €15 entrance fee includes tasting glass

 

Friuli with the Red Dress On

Friuli tasting brochure Friuli is famous for some spectacular whites. In fact, anytime anyone tells me they don’t really care for white wine, my immediate response is “Yes, you do,” as I hand them a Tocai or Ribolla or Chardonnay or Malvasia or a blend from Isonzo or Collio or the Colli Orientali. There is a pause, and then: “Oh, this is good.”

Another convert.

Forget these magnificent whites for the moment, though. At this upcoming tasting it’s Friuli’s reds that will take center stage:

  • Sunday, February 21
  • 10 am – 7 pm
  • Hotel Monaco e Gran Canal
  • Entrance: €10

There you’ll find over fifty producers offering a wide variety of rich reds. Those created from familiar varieties like Merlot and Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon) stand alongside others with less recognizable names, but highly recommended for conducting research: Schioppettino, Marzemino, Refosco, Terrano, maybe even a Tazzelenghe or Pignolo.

Another reason to attend: a selection of specialty foods will be offered by the restaurant Il Ridotto dell’Acciugheta.

Even if you’re not in Venice at the moment, do make sure to check on wine events during your stay…they’re always fun, inexpensive, and offer an excellent opportunity to taste many wines you’ll never find back home.