Originially published in June 2016.
Leslie Rosa is a Sommelier and the founder of La Dolce Vigna, a Wine + Culture tour company that offers intimate and authentic experiences in Italy and California.
Vinous Venice: Best Wine Bars in Venice
When I was studying to become a sommelier in Italy, I remember reading on the first page of my textbook’s chapter on the Veneto—the region responsible for enologic marvels like Prosecco, Soave, Bardolino, Valpolicella and Amarone—“Boy, do the Venetians love to drink!” As someone who was lucky enough to call Venice home for three years, I can affirm this statement. Drinking is part of the quotidian rhythm, starting in the morning when some of the older local set take in their first ombra (glass of wine or literally “shadow” from when wine kiosks were set up under the shadow of the bell tower in St. Mark’s Square). Wine is at the core of the city’s evening song, as well -- beginning when the sun disappears out in the lagoon and running until last call, which for most bars is around the early hour of midnight. What this means for the savvy wine tourist is that Venice is full of lovely bars with incredible wines at very affordable prices. (They would be voted off the islands if they tried to pull anything pricey.) If you want to wine and dine yourself like a real Venetian, I suggest seeking out the following wine bars.
In Cannaregio, a mostly residential sestiere (neighborhood) at the northwest of Venice, there exists a magical stretch of bars and restaurants along the Fondamenta Misericordia/ Ormesini. Two wines bars in particular hold court here: Al Timon and Vino Vero. Al Timon—one of the best restaurants in Venice if you want to take a break from feasting on fish and sink your teeth into a perfectly cooked piece of Italian beef—has a lively wine bar with around 20 different wines by the glass (mostly wines from the Veneto, but other Italian regions are represented too) and a nice selection of cicchetti (Venetian tapas). Grab a glass of Valpolicella and a plate of cicchetti and enjoy them on one of the outside tables or on their flatbed boat docked alongside the restaurant.
Vino Vero, a small, upscale wine bar, has a wine list that concentrates on small, mostly organic producers from various regions in Italy. Try a glass of Zeno, a unique Sangiovese-Pinot Noir blend from the owners’ Tuscan winery Voltumna, or perhaps a glass of bubbles in the form of Franciacorta from Veneto’s neighbor, Lombardy. Vino Vero’s display of gourmet cicchetti will have your mouth watering in no time, but don’t spoil your appetite -- this area has the highest concentration of exceptional restaurants in Venice such as Anice Stellato, Da Rioba, and Osteria d’Orto dei Mori to name a few.
On the border of the sestieri San Marco and Castello, tucked away down a narrow calle off Campo Santa Maria Formosa, is perhaps the most famous wine bar in all of Venice, not only for the excellent wines, but for its owner and personality-at-large Mauro Lorenzon. With a colorful, hand-painted bowtie and leather apron, Lorenzon or one of his staff at Enoiteca Mascareta will help you choose one of their exceptional organic wines by the glass—the only kind they serve. Stay for a plate of sliced meats and cheeses, or make a reservation for a dinner you won’t soon forget. (Bonus tip: With over 70 types of gin and 25 different types of tonic—not to mention the endless embellishments like marinated, chopped basil—their gin and tonics are true works of art.)
Down in Dorsoduro, near the bustling bars full of college students sipping on spritzes, there are a few wine bars that stand out for their grown-up wine lists. Lucky for you, they are within a minute’s walk from each other, so you can make a wine bar crawl out of it should you feel so inclined. Start with Cantina Arnaldi, a charming little enoteca run by Andrea and Katia, who will welcome you in for a glass of prosecco sur lie (prosecco naturally fermented in the bottle) or any number of wines they offer by the glass. Have a cicchetti or two and then head to Adriatico Mar. A new kid on the block, Adriatico is already making a splash not just for its canal access -- small boats can dock right in front -- but because it has one of the jolliest ambiences around, thanks to its jovial staff and loyal local fans. Don’t let the crowd deter you from procuring your own glass of heaven, aka Malvasia. Finally, finish off at Estro Vino e Cucina, run by the brothers Spezzamonte (Dario and Alberto). This place is a true gem. The well-curated wine list boasts a plethora of fascinating finds from all over Italy and even Slovenia. Be brave and pick something you have never heard of like a Raboso or sparkling Garganega. If you aren’t feeling entirely famished, nibble on one of the gourmet tramezzini -- triangular sandwiches typical to Venice. Otherwise, go ahead and let the accommodating staff behind the bar know you would like to experience their culinary delights in the main dining room.
Cannaregio 2754 (Fondamenta Ormesini)
Monday – Sunday | Lunch 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.; Wine Bar + Dinner | 6 p.m. – 12 p.m.
Cannaregio 2497 (Fondamenta Misericordia)
+39 041 275 0044
Tuesday – Sunday | 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Mon | 6 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Castello 5183 (Calle lunga Santa Maria Formosa)
+39 041 5230744
Seven Days | 7 p.m. – 2 a.m.
+39 041 718989
Thursday – Monday | 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Dorsoduro 3771 (Calle Crosera)
+39 041 476 4322
Monday – Saturday | 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Estro Vino e Cucina
+39 041 476 4914
Wednesday – Monday |12 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Tue | 4:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.