Giuliano Granata and Federica Palumbo first met while on holiday in Calabria, in 2009. At the time, Giuliano was working as an accountant, and Federica as a lawyer. But the two fell in love, and soon after decided to take a sommelier course together. And so two became three: Giuliano, Federica and the wine.
This passion quickly consumed their lives. “We decided to leave our jobs and, in 2016, opened a bistro in Vomero [a hilltop district in Naples] with a very rich cellar called Granafine,” Giuliano, 42, tells us. After operating the bistro for two years, they closed their doors and turned to a new venture. “Vineria Bandita, a project focused on natural wines, was born,” he says.
“Our parents, both professors, would never have thought of having ‘cellarmen’ children, but I think it is much more dignified to be a cellarman than to be a certain type of lawyer!” Federica, 36, says with a laugh.
We are chatting with the couple at Vineria Bandita, in the heart of Vomero, a few steps from Piazza Vanvitelli. “The first and only natural wine bar in Naples and perhaps in the whole of southern Italy,” Giuliano proudly exclaims.
A single room with a barrel vault, the spot has the look of a real French-style bar à vin: wine bottles line the walls, and platters of cheese and cold cuts are spread across tables occupied by small groups.
But this is no traditional wine bar. Federica and Giuliano have a specific goal in mind: to enhance and promote natural wine. “There is no conventional wine here, nothing is the result of industrial processes,” Federica explains.
She continues: “The rules that a wine must respect to be in this shop: spontaneous fermentation, not induced by added yeasts; no additives during vinification; and from small producers who have a respect for the land, practice organic or biodynamic agriculture and use artisanal methods.”
“In natural wine the most important thing is that the vinification starts by itself, like all natural processes. It’s like making bread with mother yeast and not pushing the leavening with industrial products,” Giuliano explains.
Hence the meaning of their name: vineria bandita means a “banned winery,” a place for people banished from the mainstream world of wine for opposing its strict adherence to industrialization. The bar gathers and disseminates “hundreds of stories of small producers who still use artisanal methods and who have generations of producers using natural methods behind them,” Giuliano adds.
“There is no conventional wine here, nothing is the result of industrial processes,” Federica explains.
It’s a project to sell “wine as it has always been done,” in their words, under the banner of the broader natural wine movement that has gained popularity across the globe, from Georgia to France, Portugal to Spain and beyond.
Considering the bar’s laser focus on natural wine, the food menu plays a supporting role, providing snacks to accompany good vino. There are platters of cured meats made by small local producers and cheeses – the raw goat milk cheese is a highlight. Sipping on natural wine and nibbling on some meat and cheese, we marvel at this unique, stimulating project.
Unfortunately, all this has come to a temporary end. The latest decree from the Italian government to combat the spread of Covid-19 requires all restaurants and bars to close at 6 p.m. – the time that Vineria Bandita normally opens. How long this regulation will be in place is not yet clear.
But Giuliano and Federica are as dogged about serving their clients as they are about promoting natural wine. The two “cellarmen” have decided to open on Saturdays and Sundays for an aperitif at lunch, at least until mid-November, when the decree is set to run out.
And natural wine lovers can contact them during the week on Facebook and Instagram for takeaway orders. While we’d prefer to drink together with friends in the bar, we’ll raise our glasses of natural vino at home to toast these two natural wine advocates.
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