The Lure of Venice
Venice is one of the most amazing yet surreal cities in the world. Historically it served as a maritime power as well as a key centre for trade, commerce and the arts. But the “City of Canals” has also seen its share of conflict and hardship.
In the late 16th century, the plague claimed more than a third of the city’s population — in just two years. Once the outbreak was over, a decision was made to erect a church dedicated to the Redentore (Redeemer) in return for helping deliver the city from the disease. It was also decided that the end of the plague would be celebrated on the third Sunday in July. It’s been over 400 years since the end of the Black Plague, but the Venetians are still celebrating.
This past July, I was in Venice and took part in the Redentore festival. The party started on Saturday night, as all public water traffic ceased in the early evening. St Mark’s Basin and the Giudecca Canal began to fill with huge yachts, motorboats and tug boats all decorated with coloured lights, lanterns and balloons.
Every boat, regardless of size, had competing loud speakers with thumping music and the entire lagoon turned into a huge floating dance party under the heat of the Venetian sun. The wine flowed and traditional Venetian dishes were served. I, along with 50 others, was a guest of distillery and winery owner Sandro Bottega, on the Moby Dick.
The stream of food was endless, with fruit salad and frito misto (assorted fried vegetables and seafood) followed by a feast of pasta alla vongole (clams) and suckling pig. The flow of wines was also endless. Sandro did his best “king of the world” imitation as he jumped onto the roof of the bridge with a mic encouraging everyone to party, “like it’s your last day on earth.” Not wanting to be bad guests, we obliged our host.
The evening culminated in a magnificent fireworks display beginning at 11:30 pm. All the boats turned off their lights and the sky lit up with explosions, showers, bursts and streams of colourful pyrotechnic splendour with the incredibly beautiful city of Venice as the backdrop. The show lasted upwards of 40 minutes and as the boats began to disperse, I couldn’t help but think about what an amazing party this was and how such festivals in Europe are rooted in so much history. Mark Twain, in 1867, probably described it best:
“The whole of Venice met outside, on the water … covering a vast expanse … thousands of gondolas had gathered together, each with ten, twenty, or even thirty coloured lights hanging all over them … As far as the eye could see these multi-coloured lights were amassed like a huge garden of multi-coloured flowers … there was music everywhere. Thus enveloped by music, magnificence and beauty I felt so inspired by the atmosphere and sights, that even I burst into song …”
Bottega Vino dei Poeti Prosecco DOC, Veneto ($15.99)
Delicate floral aromas with hints of apple and pear, fresh and drinkable with a touch of peach and a pleasant, juicy finish.
Bottega Vino dei Poeti Rosé, Veneto ($15.99)
A dangerously drinkable blend of Pinot Noir and Raboso. Bright aromas and flavours of raspberries, strawberries, apples, citrus and spice with a juicy, fresh and lively mouthfeel and fruity finish. Pairs well with celebrating the end of the plague.
Bottega Vino dell’Amore Moscato Petalo, Veneto ($17.99)
Aromatic with loads of pear, peach and floral character. Sweet, with delicate bubbles but maintains its freshness without becoming cloying and finishes with full sweet peaches.
Bottega Vino dei Poeti Prosecco DOCG, Veneto ($18.99)
Lovely aromas of peach, and apples with a nice floral character, quite fruit driven with lively bubbles, a pleasant touch of acidity and a refreshing finish.
Bottega Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2009, Tuscany ($25)
Aromas and flavours of cherry and earth with a firm structure and persistent finish. A nice match with suckling pig.
Bottega Amarone della Valpolicella DOC 2007, Veneto ($45)
Quite intense with aromas and flavours of dried cherry and raisin, cedar box and a hint of jam, very full in the mouth with a firm structure and velvety texture. A little hot on the finish.
Bottega Grappa Alexander, Veneto ($39.99)
Soft and fragrant with hints of apple and pear, well balanced with good restraint on the alcohol. Nice character and a good introduction to Grappa.
Bottega Grappa di Moscato, Piedmont ($49.99)
Pleasantly aromatic with hints of pear and apple, slightly sweet on the entry with a smooth, well-constructed finish.
Bottega Prosecco Grappa Alexander, Veneto ($49.99)
Elegant aromas of apple and white flowers with a smooth, almost creamy texture, a nice edge and a persistent finish.