Dorona is a white grape is from Sant’Erasmo, the second largest island in the Venetian Lagoon after the island on which the city of Venice itself is built. As early as the late 16th century, Sant’Erasmo was known for being rich in vegetable gardens and vineyard; in his 1581 work Venetia, città nobilissima et singolare, Francesco Sansovino mentions that Sant’Erasmo supplied an abundance of high-quality produce to Venice. The island has a mild climate and its clay soils are rich in salts, due to the proximity of the lagoon. The roots of the Dorona vines grow deep into the soil and come in to contact with the salty ground water, giving the grapes a particular flavor.
Written records attest to the presence of Dorono vines all the way back to Roman times. In the centuries of La Serenissima (the Republic of Venice) all of the islands in the lagoon had vineyards, and old maps have the names of places that clearly referred to viticulture. In the past, wine was made right where the grapes were grown and then sold in the city of Venice. It was common to referment the grape pomace in water, without adding sugar, to make a drink called bevandea, which was consumed in the summer. The bottles were kept cool underground.
Until 1966, three grape varieties were cultivated in the vineyards of Sant’Erasmo: dorona (also known as dora), bianchetta, and raboso Veronese. In 1966, massive waves caused by a violent storm swept away all of the gardens of Sant’Erasmo and caused extreme salinization of the soil. This pushed many island farmers to abandon their gardens and to look for work in factories on the nearby islands. In the following years, international grape varieties were introduced such as merlot, trebbiano, and cabernet. Today, dorona is still cultivated on the island by a farmer who recovered the remaining vines after the disaster of 1966 and transferred them to an area known as Motte. The oldest plants date back to 1870, while the youngest were planted in the 70s after the great storm. Dorona vines also grow in an old vineyard on the island of Mazzorbo.
The grape harvest takes place in September and is done by hand. Dorono wine has a distinctive salty aroma.