Beyond Venice

On my final day in the lagoon, Bisol’s boat whisks me to Sant’Erasmo, a 2-milelong island, one of the lagoon’s largest. As the crow flies, it’s only 2 miles from Mazzorbo, but we have to wind through a labyrinth of channels for 20 minutes to make the crossing. Our wake spills over grassy duck blinds and irks Venetian fishermen in small boats along the way.

Sant Erasmo Island – Venice, Italy

Once there, I meet Michel Thoulouze, who moved to the island from France 14 years ago to make wine with ancient grapes — especially the honeyed white Malvasia from Istria. “We wanted to dig a cellar to store the wine, but the water table is too high, so I decided to sink the wine in the lagoon, which is actually an ideal place for it to age,” he says in a thick French accent while pouring me a glass of 2011 Orto di Venezia. “The first year we sank the wine, it was stolen, so I had to make sure I was discreet about the location. Now the only problem is remembering where we sank it,” he says, chuckling.

Thoulouze’s wines — vegetal and mineral and perfectly balanced — are considered some of the best in Venice. “The grapes do well in this salty climate and love the clay and limestone soil,” he explains. He opens another bottle and we talk about wine, which segues to a discussion about the importance of the water, which somehow segues to heirloom chickens (he’s raising them on Sant’Erasmo).

After a very “comprehensive” tasting, we lean into more personal topics like love, food and the most sacred and profound of all Venetian topics: how to avoid Venice’s tourists. Other than water, this is a subject that consumes Venetians. But, as I discovered, it’s easy to do if you stick to the lagoon.

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