He learned how the vines had to be planted far apart, to allow the roots to grow sideways to avoid salt water; and how wells had to be dug hundreds of feet deep to reach the fresh water needed to flush the vines. Bisol found a medieval monastery on the nearby island of Mazzorbo with an enclosed vineyard and put what he had learned into practice. Ten years and many experiments later, the first vintage of his Venice wine was produced.
Gianluca’s son, Matteo Bisol, now oversees operations in Venissa, and he met me off the boat to show me around Mazzorbo. Unlike the ramshackle vineyards of San Michele, Venissa is a posh business venture – a Michelin-starred restaurant and luxurious accommodations have been added to their portfolio in recent years. However, they share one of the fundamental principles of Laguna nel Bicchiere. “We’re really serious about wine quality,” Matteo told me. “But for us, it represents something much bigger: bringing a piece of Venice history back to the lagoon after almost losing this wine.”
The rediscovery of the dorona sparked a revival in Venetian wine. Laguna nel Bicchiere now grows a blend of dorona and other non-native grapes and produces blended grape wines. Venissa’s whites are made with 100% dorona grapes, and their vineyard is the only one dedicated solely to its commercial production. The lagoon boundaries mean it will always remain a small business; the estate produces 3,500 bottles a year, which are sold mainly in the immediate vicinity.
Venissa’s Dorona wine has been acclaimed for its full-bodied body and bold, dry taste, considered very similar – thanks to the unique profile of the Dorona grape variety and traditional, organic cultivation methods – to the wine so prized by the Doges. It carries an unmistakable saline touch and goes extremely well with the lagoon ingredients served at Venissa’s restaurant, such as oysters, lavender and Sant’Erasmo honey.