Today we introduce Alessandro Bulzoni of Enoteca Bulzoni, in Rome. Alessandro is the owner of Enoteca Bulzoni where he works with his brother Riccardo and there are frequent appearances by their father, Sergio. This Roman wine bar is known for its great selection of organic and ‘natural’ wines. In fact, Alessandro is a pioneer of the Italian natural wine movement and a reference point in Rome to find them. Here we present a quick conversation with Alessandro about the history of the wine bar and how it has evolved.
Casa Mia: What is the story of Enoteca Bulzoni and your family?
Alessandro Bulzoni: My grandfather, Emidio, had a shop in the 1920s that was typical in Rome at the time: a Vino e Olio. These were small boutiques that sold bulk wine, olive oil and vinegar coming from the countryside around Rome. My father Sergio took over after World War II then my brother and I after that.
CM: Why the neighborhood of Parioli in the north of Rome?
AB: In the 1920s Parioli was the periferia—the outskirts of the city—and lots of workers came in to build the apartments, houses, buildings that would later define the neighborhood. They would come and seek a glass of wine to sip with their meal at lunchtime. After the war Parioli, where I grew up, became a chic neighborhood where embassies started sprouting up and wealthy Romans who wanted to get away from the hectic center came with their families.
CM: When did you start working in the family business?
AB: After high school there was an economic boom during the 1980s in Italy and I decided to help out. This is when I started exploring wines that were not just from near Rome. Also, our clientele had changed and were much more sophisticated so I needed to learn more about foreign wines and spirits. Italian wines were changing too and suddenly there was interest in the global market for what Italy was producing. This was fueled by the many American wine connoisseurs living in this area of the city (the American Ambassador’s residence is nearby).
CM: Since you are now known as one of the most important sellers and wine bar for natural wines, how did you get interested in discovering them?
AB: During the 1980s I noticed that the taste of mainstream wine was becoming worse and worse so I started searching for alternatives. I was looking for wines that were chemically ‘stable’, meaning without additives and based on the ancient model of the integrity of the plants, the terroir (because if we take care of the soil there is no need to add anything) and of course the final product.
CM: How do you discover new wines?
AB: I travel and go to wine events where I can taste new wines. I’m not interested in discovering wines online. I believe that human interaction is essential. I personally know all the wine producers I buy from.
CM: Where are the best Italian natural wines coming from?
AB: They are mostly coming from southern Italy. Campania (Avellino) and Sicily (Etna) are producing great natural wines.
CM: I know this is an impossible question, but what is your favorite glass of wine?
AB: A calice –glass– of Burgundy, Barolo or Pinot Noir.
Stay tuned for more Our Italians interviews.
All photos ©Eleonora Baldwin, except featured portrait © lacucinadicalycanthus.net reproduced with author’s permission.
Elizabeth Janus is a passionate traveller, and makes it a point to peruse the farmer’s markets in every place she visits to get an immediate pulse of the city. For the last decade, she has been guiding discerning clients on food adventures at farmer’s markets, speciality shops and into her home for unique Italian meals to experience Italy as an Italian..