The best place to drink natural wine in Italy? Enoteca Naturale has my vote (for reasons you may not expect).

One of the things that will delight first-time visitors to Enoteca Naturale in Milan is its jaw-droppingly gorgeous setting in the Parco delle Basiliche (Park of the Basilicas). It’s one of the most beautiful plazas in the city, especially at night thanks to the dramatic lighting.

Another element that will surprise them is that it shares its physical space with Emergency, a humanitarian aid foundation that has worked to fulfill its motto nessuno escluso (no one left out) since 1994. Some may remember that its founder Gino Strada died this summer (see his Times obit here).

The sense of moral purpose and civic cause hasn’t been lost on the founders and owners of Enoteca Naturale who set their business up as an “SRL Benefit” when they opened its doors in late 2018. SRL is the Italian equivalent of limited liability company. The term benefit here denotes a for-profit company that receives tax incentives for fostering and supporting community. In the case of Enoteca Naturale, the owners have committed to making their workforce diverse, including numerous hires of immigrants. It’s a program known as integrazione sociale or social integration. Pretty cool, right?

I visited Enoteca Naturale on the very last day of my latest trip to my spiritual homeland in early October.

I was blown away by the depth of the by-the-glass selection. And the level of wine education chops was as thrilling as it was informed and informative.

But the thing that really impressed me about this wonderful natural wine destination was how nice that everyone was there.

That may seem like something banal. But in my experience visiting natural wine bars in the U.S. and Italy, it’s not always the case.

The occasional attitudes of some staff at natural wine venues have often reminded me of my graduate school days when academic one-uppersonship was often what guided human interaction among my peers. Every time I hear someone say something like, well, you must have never tasted Overnoy or Textier, I can’t help be reminded of the time one student mercilessly shamed another into admitting that they had never read Ulysses — in front of the whole class. Yes, that really happened.

Everyone at Enoteca Naturale was so warm and welcoming. They didn’t care where any of the guests were from or where they were going. All they cared about was pouring and sharing good wine with people who were there for that very purpose.

That’s my dissertation advisor and good friend, Luigi Ballerini, in the photo above btw. We had such a lovely visit there.

I’ll never forget the first time that I visited Milan’s other go-to natural wine bar, Champagne Socialist, which I also loved. They recoiled when they learned I was from Texas. Unfortunately, that’s something that happens a lot when I frequent natural wine circles. It took an entire of evening of drinking and bantering (and a couple of jazz cigarettes) to convince them that non tutti i texani vengono per nuocere (just like Fo’s thief).

No, none of that prejudice or presupposition was present at Enoteca Naturale. All I found was great wine and great people ready to share it with me. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Identify yourself as a wine professional and they will give you a trade discount.

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