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.”
Driven to source “the finest, hidden pearls of Italian oenology”, from resurrected Lambrusco to a taut rosé from Calabria, Luca Dusi is the memorable mind behind Hackney’s flamboyant Passione Vino. Formerly “a studio with a dark room in the basement,” the motto of his shop and wine bar is, “Vision. Dedication. Style.”
In style terms, Dusi gilded the lily when it comes to the shop and bar’s particularly fulsome décor featuring aggressively floral wallpaper. He describes the vision: “I knew the effect I wanted to trigger – bold and loud, but not hipster – so asked my friend, Toby Sander, a product designer, to help me out.”
The seed of Passione Vino was sown in the late 1990s when “Italian wines had the reputation of being cheap and cheerful in this country,” he says. “Think two-litre, screw-capped Montepulciano-style house wines – or the famous and obvious.” However, when Dusi and business partner, Federico Bruschetta met Bruna Ferro by chance, “the super-genuine producer of Carussin Barbera d’Asti which we fell in love with” they decided to “crack open our piggy bank and visit lesser-known wineries, enlisting 13 to begin with.” Today, realised in portraits in the middle bar, Passione Vino dedicatedly imports the wares of 75 producers, including seven of Carussin’s wines.
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.” Indeed, making wine “isn’t about fashion, and neither is it easy, but an art based on experience and effort.”
Often artfully labelled bottles on Passione Vino’s shelves are available to take-away or drink-in subject to a mere £10 mark-up. “If I am in a good mood everything goes by-the-glass, otherwise we always have at least 10 whites and 10 reds available.” Alongside, expect lavishly equipped meat and cheese platters, smoked burrata, vitello tonnato, and “dusty knuckle” bread with balsamic and olive oil.
Dusi recalls a memorable producer event, albeit held elsewhere. “In 2007 at Hotel du Vin, Newcastle we hosted a dinner featuring wines made as part of a drug rehabilitation programme at San Patrignano, Rimini. Some guests thought they were at a charity dinner and left upset. We tried to help them understand it was foremost about the wines, but in this case the producer wasn’t a traditional farmer. But those who stayed had a mega-good time…”
Dusi describes himself as a “wine socialist”, rallying against supermarkets which stock wines which “squeeze the maker and cheat the client with something which is probably a good wine but a bad example of, for example, Barolo.” Even more annoying, he says, are producers poised “to find a compromise in order to supply such a demand.”
He also mentions he sees wines as shapes, with “oaky Shiraz is as round as a football, while aged Nebbiolo is a long conical shape beginning from the narrow end.”
Dusi loves London which is “quite perfect for drinking wine – any wine” because “it’s never too hot or too cold.”
By Douglas Blyde.