Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Vini Venezia – the wines of inland Venice

The Veneto has great wine areas, notably Valpolicella, Soave and Prosecco. But it also has its fair share of smaller denominations. In 2022, I had the opportunity to visit the dramatic volcanic area of Colli Euganei. In 2024, it was the turn of Vini Venezia, a consortium of five denominations north of Venice. The wines of inland Venice if you will. Yes, Venezia is more than the beautiful, tourist haven of Venice itself. Note that most of the denominations are on the eastern side of the river Piave; only DOC Vini Venezia covers the much larger area to the west.

Map of the DOCs of Vini Venezia

The two historic denominations are Lison-Pramaggiore DOC and Piave DOC. The former is the product of the merger of two DOCs, both originally founded in 1971, and merged into one in 1974. The latter also stretches back to 1971. There was then a flurry of DOC creation in 2011 when Lison and its subzone Lison Classico DOCG, Malanotte del Piave DOCG and Venezia DOC were added. This may seem over complicated for a relatively small production area. However, it does reflect the dual history of grape growing here. International grape varieties such as Merlot are common alongside small areas devoted to the local varieties such as Friulano, Raboso and Refosco dal pendunculo rosso. Unsurprisingly, the same mix is to be found in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia to the east.

The wine lover will undoubtedly be most interested in the specialist denominations but the commercial success of Venezia DOC is important more generally. This DOC covers the entire area in red on the map above. As a generic regional DOC, it allows the use of no fewer than 14 varieties and permits high yields of 15–17 tons/hectare. The number of hectares used for the production of DOC(G) wine is dominated by the popular Venezia DOC. What these figures do not show is the behemoth Prosecco DOC which extends across the whole area and far beyond. Producers complain that it is increasingly difficult to purchase vineyard land due to the Prosecco boom.

Vini Venezia DOC(G)s, hectares


Vini Venezia DOC(G)s, average hectares 2018–2020, Source: ISMEA mercati

Perhaps the best way of understanding this wine region is via its most prestigious grape varieties

Friulano: call me Tai? 

Tasting at Borgo Stajnbech
Tasting at Borgo Stajnbech, Belfiore di Pramaggiore
As in Friuli, the premier local white grape variety is Friulano. Not exactly a native variety as it is originally the Sauvignonasse of Bordeaux, in Italy it was originally called Tocai Friulano, then just Friulano and in Lison simply Tai. This is not a nickname; it appears as such in the legal regulations. 

My visit to Borgo Stajnbech demonstrated its capacity to age. The recent wines, labelled as 150 Lison Classico, were made with 12 hours of criomaceration at 8ºC. The wine is made and aged in stainless steel. The mini-vertical of this wine showed the young wine, 2022, in the company of the 2021, 2019 and 2015. These reflected their vintage conditions and showed appropriate development. The older 2015 showed lovely fresh and dried yellow fruit character with nutty and earthy overtones.  Top-quality Tai can clearly develop in the bottle. 

Main regulations for Lison and Lison Classico DOCG:

  • minimum 85% Friulano
  • maximum 11 hectolitres per hectare, 10 per hectare if Classico and from the Classico sub-zone
  • release from 1 January of year after harvest. 

Raboso: call me ‘angry’?

For me, the most exciting thing about Italy as a winemaking country is the extraordinary range of local grape varieties. Some producers make excellent Cabernet or Chardonnay but that is really not the point. Raboso is a native of north-east Italy, if in reality it is two closely related varieties, Raboso Piave (Piave being the local river) and Raboso Veronese.

De Stefani, Fossalta di Piave
De Stefani, Fossalta di Piave

The resulting wine is, shall we say, bold: deep ruby in colour, aromatic, high acidity and high tannins. (This demanding nature might have led to the idea that the name is related to ‘rabbioso’, angry.). In the past it was often blended with other varieties or indeed replaced by the gentler Merlot. But, thankfully, local producers still want to make it and soften it by methods such as air-drying the grapes. 

Among its broad range, De Stefani make a Malanotte del Piave DOCG. This is a Raboso wine that requires the use of semi-dried grapes. At De Stefani, 30 per cent of the grapes are dried for 3–6 weeks. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 18 months in 100 per cent new French oak barriques. The dense black cherry fruit and spice notes cope well with this level of oak. 


Main regulations for Malanotte del Piave DOCG

  • minimum 70% Raboso Piave, the rest Raboso Veronese
  • 15–30% air-dried fruit
  • minimum of three years of ageing including one year in bottle 

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

Villa Giustinian, Ornella Molon
Villa Giustinian, built in 1652

This flatter, lower part of the Veneto and neighbouring Friuli are also home to international varieties, particularly Merlot. They also have a part to play as the wines of inland Venice. Most of this wine is of good rather than outstanding quality and is consumed locally. But ambitious producers also made high-quality examples. Ornella Molon, now the driving force at the historic Villa Giustinian (its history can be read here), makes two versions, Merlot Riserva and the single-vineyard, Rosso di Villa. The latter leaps from the glass with its dark plum/black cherry fruit and vanilla spice (18 months in 100 per cent new French oak).  barriques). Tenuta Polvaro makes both white and red wines from international varieties. Polvaro Gold is a Chardonnay/ Pinot Bianco blend with a touch of Traminer which is surprisingly dominant on the nose. The Nero version is a Bordeaux blend, 50 per cent Merlot plus Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. I also tasted an excellent 2013 vintage of Olmera at De Stefani, 60% Tai, 40% Sauvignon Blanc.

With Venice only 45 minutes away and with so many historic buildings, it is not surprising that larger properties such as Tenuta Polvaro and Ornella Molon are also building hospitality businesses, alongside their wineries. Ornella Molon is restoring luxury rooms adjacent to Villa Giustinian. Tenuta Polvaro is creating a grand events space as you can see in the pictures below.

It is always exciting to find excellent wines being made in less-well known parts of Italy. Raboso makes a red wine of really high quality potential. The best Friulano here can give the better known wines of Friuli a run for their money. International varieties can also create very convincing wines. And because of the proud history and wealth of the Venetian Republic, there is so much to explore within the region in addition to the wines of inland Venice. 

Many thanks to Consorzio Vini Venezia (and especially its director, Stefano Quaggio) and Studio Cru for organising these visits. Below you can find some pictures of the beautiful town of Portogruaro. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Scroll to Top