Dorona, a lagoonal wine (aàh Venezia aàh Venissa aàh Venùsia)

Above: The Bisol family is growing Dorona, a clone of Garganega, on the island of Mazzorbo, adjacent to the island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon.

When Matteo Bisol passed through Austin the other day (and graciously posed and uttered grape and appellation names for my camera), he brought news of his family’s newest project: Venissa a cloistered vineyard and high-concept restaurant and agriturismo on the island of Mazzorbo in the Venetian lagoon (above).

For a few years now, the family has been growing Dorona, a clone of Garganega, a grape traditionally and historically cultivated in the Venetian lagoon for the production of urban — and in this case, lagoonal — wine (if you’re wondering how to pronounce the ampelonym Garganega, btw, you’ll find the pronunciation here).

Above: I wrote to Matteo’s publicist, who was kind enough to share this photo of Dorona. The ampelonym probably refers to the golden color of the berries.

Being a consummate Venetophile, I am entirely geeked to taste the wine (which will be released for the first time next year) but in the meantime I would like to make a clarification regarding the name of the estate and the project, Venissa.

Venissa is not an ancient name of Venice or the Venetian lagoon, as many complacent readers of press releases have erroneously claimed.

In fact, Venissa is an erudite paronomasia from one of the greatest works of dialectal poetry by one of the greatest poets of our lifetime, Andrea Zanzotto (from Pieve di Soligo, one of my favorite places on earth).

Above: The Veneto poet Andrea Zanzotto. Photo via Engeler.

It’s actually the name of a mythical figure from antiquity, a fictional daughter of the Roman emperor Claudius.

The name appears in Zanotto’s poem in Veneto dialect, “Filò,” composed for Fellini’s 1976 Casanova.

It is the second name in the triad aàh Venezia aàh Venissa aàh Venùsia, where Venice (Venezia) is likened to a temptress or evil woman:

    Eyes of a snake, eyes of a queen,
    head of fire that inflames the ice,
    we beg you: burst loose, break free,
    we implore you, everything implores you;
    show yourself above, rise up,
    let’s all pull together, you and us

    ah Venice ah Venissa ah Venùsia

Venùsia is the ancient name of modern-day Venosa, a city supposedly so-called because it was dedicated to Venus by its founder Diomedes.

(Here’s a link to a preview of the excellent translation of Filò, where the lines appear in the Veneto, Italian, and English. And here’s a link to some background on this work and its significance in the canon of dialectal poetry.)

With these lines, the poet partly alludes to Venice’s place in history as Western Civilization’s capital of prostitution.

I could go on and on (aàh Venissa, if only my professional life were devoted to poetry instead of wine!). But I’ll close this post and clarification with a wonderful passage that I found in a nineteenth century dictionary of Veneto dialect, in the entry for the word filò, which denotes an all-night gathering of women who stitch and sew as they gossip.

    Queste le xe cosse da contàr al filò!

    These are things [only suited] to be told at a sewing vigil!

Valdobbiadene: Italian grape name and appellation pronunciation project


Above: In February of this year, Tracie P and I visited the village of Rolle, which lies nearly equidistant from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano in the heart of Prosecco country. Photo by Tracie P.

As the Italian Grape Name Pronunciation project has expanded to Appellations, I couldn’t think of a more mispronounced appellation and Italian toponym than Valdobbiadene. Despite the immense popularity of Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene in this country (due, in no small part IMHO, to the fact that the grape name and appellation name Prosecco is relatively easy for Anglophones to pronounce), consumers and wine professionals rarely know how to pronounce Valdobbiadene correctly. When Prosecco producer Matteo Bisol visited Austin the other day, I seized the opportunity to film him pronouncing Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, Prosecco (the appellation and grape name), and Glera (a synonym for Prosecco, now favored by producers of the still relatively new Prosecco DOCG).

BTW, the toponym Valdobbiadene (a village) is a cognate of valle (valley) and the toponymic adjective Dubla(n)dino (from Duplavilis), which in turn comes from the hydronym Plavis, the ancient name of the Piave river. Thus, Valdobbiadene means valley of the Piave river.*

* You’ll note that in my transliteration of Valdobbiadene, I report only one b. This is due to the fact that the people of the Veneto do not pronounce double consonants. In standard Italian, the correct transliteration is VAHL-dohb-BEE’AH-deh-neh.

Some of the more beautiful things I saw in Italy

The caliber of my photography never rises above the amateur (in the etymologic sense of the word) but sometimes I get lucky. I guess it’s about place and time.

Tasting with the Marquis Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga at the Tenuta San Leonardo in Trentino. I was moved at the thought of shaking the hand of a descendant of one of the most influential families of the Northern Italian Renaissance.

I photographed this bee at the highest point in Cartizze, the top growing site for Prosecco. Matteo Bisol of the Bisol winery opened his family’s Prosecco Cartizze and we tasted it right there among the vines. It was fun to return to Valdobbiadene where I spent so much time during the summers of years at university in Italy.

The baroque basilica at the Abbazia di Novacella was most impressive. That was the farthest north I’ve ever traveled in Italy. Driving through the Alps, I couldn’t help but think of the line from Petrarch canzone 128:

    Nature provided well for our safety when she put the shield of the Alps between us and the Teutonic rage.

The incipit of the song is one of Petrarch’s most moving and appeals to the then divided and bellicose Italian states:

    My Italy, although speech does not aid those mortal wounds of which in your lovely body I see so many, I wish at least my sighs to be such as Tiber and Arno hope for, and Po where I now sit sorrowful and sad. (translation by Robert Durling)

I’ve been traveling to Italy for more than twenty years and as in years past, I took time to catch up on my newspaper reading and to ask people about their outlook for the future. In my view, the Italians’ “tenuous sense of nationhood” seems more fragile than ever (between the jockeying of Berlusconi, Fini, and Bossi) and the balance of Po, Tiber, and Arno all the more precarious.

But the beauty of this country has always been accompanied by peril — the one seemingly unable to exist without the other.

I’ll begin posting about my trip and other developments next week. Stay tuned and thanks for reading…