■ 28 August 2011 by James Martin
One of the things I like about Italy is the reasonable and quite drinkable wine you can get at a much lower price than in the US. Of course, well-aged, famous wines like Barolo and Brunello will set you back a bundle—yet fresh, crisp, local wines can be had for little, especially if you purchase them in the way many Italians do, as vini sfusi, wines you buy by bulk and take from the store in your own recycled bottles.
It’s easy. You enter the store advertising Vini Sfusi with your bottles, peruse the selection, noting the alcohol and the types of grapes used, and then, if possible, taste what you think you might want to buy. After than you just hand your bottles over and the rest is done by the shopkeeper. Prices in our part of Tuscany range from 1.20 to 2.50 Euros per liter.
You’ll notice that the higher alcohol wines are usually the most expensive. The alcohol level can be an indicator of quality. It’s not that people are looking for the highest alcohol for the best kick, it’s usually because the grapes are harvested a bit earlier than optimal in rural wine regions like ours if rain is on the horizon that might cause the grapes to rot before they’re picked. This can produce low sugar levels, and thus low alcohol and generally astringent wines which are best avoided. Too much alcohol, on the other hand, makes the wine “fat” and less attractive with food.
When we decided to try the vino sfuso in our region, we first brought our own bottles from wine we had purchased previously at the supermarket. When we found that the wine was quite good, especially for the price, we bought a spiffy 6-bottle holder for 3 Euros and 6, 1 liter re-sealable bottles for a Euro each. When they’re filled, we’re all set with at least a week’s worth of wine that won’t set us back more than 15 Euros for 6 liters of grape squeezings.
In the video below we offer a peek at some stores selling vino sfuso in Italy, the first in Piemonte, my favorite wine region in Italy, and the second in my neighborhood in La Lunigiana, a wine shop in the town of Terrarossa, near the castle.
Cantine Lunae in Ortonovo is one of our favorite places for bottled wine and also offers vino sfuso. There is also a new shop in Rometta that offers it.
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