He learned how the vines needed to be planted far apart, to allow the roots to grow sideways to avoid the saltwater; and how wells had to be dug hundreds of feet deep to reach the fresh water needed to flush the vineyards. Bisol found a medieval monastery on the nearby island of Mazzorbo with a walled vineyard and put to work what he had learned. Ten years and much experimentation later, the first vintage of his Venissa wine was produced.
Gianluca’s son, Matteo Bisol, now oversees operations at Venissa, and he got me off the boat to show me around Mazzorbo. In contrast to the tumbledown vineyards of San Michele, Venissa is a swanky commercial enterprise – a Michelin-starred restaurant and luxurious lodgings have been added to their portfolio in recent years. However, they share one of Laguna nel Bicchiere’s fundamental principles. “We’re really serious about the quality of the wine,” Matteo told me. “But for us, it represents something way bigger: bringing back a part of the history of Venice to the lagoon after we almost lost this wine.”
The rediscovery of the dorona has ignited a revival in Venetian wine. Laguna nel Bicchiere now grows a mixture of dorona and other, non-indigenous, grapes, and produces mixed-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 limitations of the lagoon mean it will always remain a boutique enterprise; the estate produces 3,500 bottles per year, which are sold mainly in the immediate area.
Venissa’s dorona wine has won acclaim for its full body and bold, dry taste, thought to be very similar – thanks to the dorona grape’s unique profile and traditional, organic growing methods – to the wine so prized by the doges. It carries an unmistakable hint of saltiness, and pairs extremely well with the lagoon ingredients served in Venissa’s restaurant, like oysters, lavender and Sant’Erasmo honey.