85 Leonard Street, Hackney, EC2A 4QS
WLC Rank : 78
Glass from : £ 7.50 (175 ml)
BEST FOR100% Italian exclusively imported estates
A contagiously passionate approach to describing wine
Imaginative and memorable decor
Gutsy cooking which shuns garlic
Nationwide wine delivery
Dusi’s agencies are “small, artisan, indie and genuinely 101% Italian.” He prefers not to use the albeit applicable word “natural” because it has been “wildly abused and ridiculed by hipsters who think all you need to make wines is a straw hat, dirty trousers, sandals and a jumper with holes in it.”
Don’t come to Hackney’s flamboyant Passione Vino for cocktails, beer, or even sparkling water for the undivided mission of proprietor and flaneur, Luca Dusi is to source the finest, hidden pearls of Italian oenology within Italy’s “middle ground”, i.e. the swathe betwixt “screw-capped litres of Montepulciano and the famous and obvious…”
With business partner, Federico Bruschetta, Dusi signed the first producer, Carussin, at a sultry Vinitaly in 2003. “I met Bruna Fera who was talking to a dog she’d rescued from the road which intently listened to her.” Her wine, a Barbera d’Asti proved inspirational, “with shades of red like her hair.” From that moment, wine became much more than alcohol. “It’s about history, geography and the personality who fought the elements for 12 months then transformed it into something amazing.”
Today, the shop and wine bar, and beyond that, on-trade business showcases a roster of around 70 estates with hand-drawn producer portraits gracing the brick “hero wall” of his tasting room which is replete with a tulipwood counter. Elsewhere, wallpaper writ large with flowers and butterflies celebrates nature. When uncorked within, the often artfully labelled bottles are subject to a modest £10 mark-up, to be savoured alongside an increasingly developed menu which might include Venetian whipped dried cod, cuttlefish stew with winter vegetables, and fresh Bigoli with white sausage ragu, alongside staples such as lean Strolghino salami from Anselmo Bocchi and unpasteurised Monte Stagionato cheese.
In 2020, Dusi “finally found a stunner of a Frascati” from La Torretta “aged in chestnut and another in terracotta amphora,” and a controversial, impeccable Puglian Pinot Noir.
During the lockdown, as well as being in demand to conduct spirited Zoom tastings, Dusi never closed the shop. “Swiftly and promptly we changed our attitude towards commerce, modifying the website and pushed home deliveries nationwide, which proved to be more than a lifeline.”
If you’re eve feeling blue and can’t make it to the venue itself, keep an eye on Dusi’s Instagram account (@lucapassionevino), via which he theatrically and hilariously promotes his wine of the week. Rest assured, says Dusi, “you can pay me a million, but I’ll never transfer positive energy to a bad bottle.”
By Douglas Blyde.