How Italians Drink Wine:
I’ve come to the conclusion that while any good Italian is educated about and appreciates a high quality riserva, it’s actually not considered cool to be a snob about it. Rather, with both wine and any other food product for that matter, Italians take pride in understanding different levels of quality, including the place for each.
When it comes to wine, an especially high quality bottle is meant either for pairing with a refined dish, or for tasting on it’s own. You’re not going to pair an expensive wine with your Tuesday night aglio olio e pepperoncino, and you wouldn’t open a bottle of boring normal wine on a special occasion. In Italy the only beverages that are traditionally served at mealtime are water and wine, and it’s perfectly acceptable for “vino da tavola” to be a normal, unremarkable wine. They are referred to as “honest.” The wine is what it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Vino Sfuso usually falls under this category, and is quite popular with restaurants, the young and/or broke that don’t want to sacrifice quality entirely, and increasingly throughout this recession, everyone else.
What Vino Sfuso Is & Why It’s Great:
Vino Sfuso is usually wine that wasn’t “worthy” of being bottled, but this doesn’t mean that it’s bad wine. Wineries decide to sell a wine as sfuso, or bulk, when it just wouldn’t have aged well, and it didn’t make economic sense to bottle and ship the wine, or simply to sell a portion of the years’ crop without the cost of branding, bottling and labeling. From my experience there are plenty of bottled wines that are much worse than the vino sfuso around Florence. Certain low-quality producers seem to bottle the cheap stuff and bank on uneducated consumers who are making decisions based more on packaging than quality.
How & Where to Get Vino Sfuso in Florence:
When choosing a vino sfuso, look for locally-produced wines and ask to taste it before if in doubt. They’ll have bottles on hand or you can bring your own bottles, or any other type of container for that matter.
Prices usually range from about €1.50 to €5 per Litre. If you’re looking for inexpensive wine, definitely go with Vino Sfuso over a bottle of the same price. Think about it: If that bottle of wine costs €3, including branding packaging shipping AND store markup… that is a seriously cheap wine. Instead pay €3 for a wine that isn’t packaged and branded, and that comes from the surrounding region, so that as much of your money as possible is going to the grapes.
My two favorite Vino Sfuso shops in Florence are Bacco Nudo in the Sant’ Ambrogio area, and La Buca del Vino near Porta Romana. Both places have knowledgable and helpful owners. While you’re there, take a look at the selection of bottles for sale too – for when table wine just won’t cut it.