The wines of the Collio are generally serious but approachable, seemingly always with evident minerality, sufficient and enjoyable fruit notes, a complexity, pleasant acidity – a brightness – and nearly always balance among its white varietals from the crisp Ribolla Gialla both in still and sparkling versions; Pinot Grigio, which seems to reach its apex here; the local favorite Friuliano that seems made to accompany seafood; the rich and savory Sauvignon and Chardonnay, both tasting different than elsewhere and nearly always quite pleasurable. And others. I believe that it is clearly best region for white wine in Italy. And then the wines from the small Carso appellation surrounding Trieste, lead by light and often almond-scented Vitoska, Malvasia, the unique, vivid red Terrano, can be quite nice.
Though it was wine that played a part in bringing me to Trieste – I had been on a trip nearby sponsored by the consortiums of Collio and Carso a decade ago – it took me a few days to discern the bars where best to discover and enjoy quality wines, as I didn’t come across signs announcing “wine bar” or its Italian counterpart “enoteca” in my walks around the city. I miss some things. There are certainly no shortage of places to get a glass of wine in the tourist-friendly expanse of central Trieste, though. Cafés and restaurants both with plenty of sidewalk-facing seating abound. Coffee might be the beverage that most would associate Trieste with. It is home to the famed Illy brand, around 40% of Italy’s coffee comes through its port, and there are still a few grand Viennese-style cafés. Then Trieste has culture of drinking that might be more pronounced than elsewhere in Italy due, in part, to its Austrian and Slavic influences. The enjoyment of coffee, aperitivi and wine might be on display at many of these places, often at the same time, even well before noon.
You can get some really good wine by the glass at many or all of these, but it really helps to do some research. I finally did that, or remembered some, after my first few days. My unimpressive and uncomfortably warm business hotel had a magazine guide of the city from the end of last year, and in it was a page recommending spots to drink wine from Stefano Cosma, a food and wine writer in the area. I also found a piece online a few years earlier from the estimable Jancis Robinson and re-read a helpful “36 Hours in Trieste, Italy” from The New York Times. I used these to track down a spots, and wines, especially where there was overlap between the articles.
Here are wine bars to suggest in Trieste near the tourist heart of the city, all unpretentious, which provided some excellent white wines to help quench my summertime thirst:
- Al Ciketo – Just off the pedestrian via Cavanna that is strewn with shops and restaurants, and a stone’s throw from La Piccola Vineria, this tiny, atmospheric place with alleyway seating can be a popular happy hour stop, and it’s blackboard filled with interesting wines both local and from elsewhere in Italy and there are cicchetti, small plates, to accompany.
- Enoteca Nanut – Around for a quarter of a century tucked away in the touristic center by the Canal Grande but easy to miss, here you can explore lesser-known Italian labels along or indulge in bubbles from Champagne, and it has a kitchen, too.
- Gran Malabar – Walking by, a visitor would probably just see this as a comfortable attractive café with tables on the small piazza in front. The chalkboard of wines by the glass is notable, enticing with about three dozen selections, mostly white and mostly regional, but also a nice collection of bubbles from Champagne and Franciorta, and items like Gaja’s Chardonnay and a Gewurztraminer from Elena Walch. The staff might have no idea what a barrique or tonneaux is, but what they are pouring will be very enjoyable.
- La Bottiglia Volante – A couple of blocks from the Canal Grande, this smart and contemporary space is inviting and gives off a trendier vibe with its penchant for natural wines.
- La Piccola Vineria – Invitingly quaint and friendly, you might enjoy a Collio producer like Toros that’s not widely distributed in this country, or even a Champagne from a historic house.
- Portizza – On the busy Piazza della Borsa, this popular café sports a terrific collection of regional wines that many spritz-drinking tourists and locals might not notice.
Though these wine bars might be the best places to casually explore the wine regions nearby, seemingly all the local restaurants will serve quality wines for a pittance. Along those lines, I had to stop and gaze at the wines by the glass menu – “vini alla mescita” – posted outside of a humble restaurant serving the hearty fare of Alto Adige. For between all of between three and five-a-half euros per glass was about a dozen choices including the excellent wineries Venica & Venica, Villa Russiz, Russiz Superiore and Jermman, that last with a couple wines.
Trieste is a wonderful place to drink wine, especially white wines.
Something else to mention concerning wine and Trieste: Though it doesn’t ship to the U.S. – I tried when I was there – Enoteca Bischoff, a retail shop along the busy via Mazzini and about a block or so from Enoteca Nanut that’s been around in some form since 1777 is worth a perusal for wine lovers for its impressively curated selection of wines, mostly Italian and well beyond the region and more.
Just the white wines at Gran Malabar in Trieste in June