How far would you drive to buy beautiful wine at 3 euros a litre?
I am always so impressed with the quality of the plonk in restaurants in Italy that a few years ago, I determined to set about finding some for myself and bringing it home. Since then I have never stopped finding new places.
My friends are always pleased to see our new “house wine” arrive for the season. I often tell people how to get it for themselves, so I thought I would share this top tip with you.
What is Vino Sfuso or Vino da Tavola
It translates as loose wine – not in the promiscuous sense….! More literally it means 'unpackaged', and I love it!
Not only is it super cheap – we usually pay around 15-20 euros for a five litre box, but it tastes great.
If you’re used to drinking the entry level price wine in the UK, in comparison it tastes stellar.
Here's why. The lowest retail price in a UK supermarket is about £3.50. but the retailers are paying £2.23 per bottle of that in import duty, leaving them only £1.27 to cover the cost of the bottle, the bottling costs, labels, marketing and shipping – never mind the small consideration of making a profit.
So it stands to reason they are probably buying wine of an inferior quality to this Sfuso.
The right Sfuso for you
It takes time and patience to find the right Sfuso for you.
I have found when I taste a great house wine in a restaurant and ask about its source, no-one has ever been prepared to tell me the actual vineyard they buy from, as they consider it a closely guarded secret.
I have also found many vineyards do not want the general public to know they sell some wine this way, as they want to preserve their image to promote their premium wines, so I often get turned away from possible great sources.
I persevered with some of them who finally allowed me to buy, but on the basis that I do not reveal their names. It's a shame, as there are some really impressive vineyards offering Vino Sfuso.
To find somewhere great takes some spadework, but it’s worth it.
This time around I knew exactly what I wanted – I love Barolo, Barberesco and Gavi, so I knew the Piedmont area would be fertile hunting ground for me, but it was like searching for a needle in a haystack.
The region has so many vineyards, but not many that admitted to selling Sfuso. I had almost come to the conclusion I would just have to turn up in the area and hunt around when suddenly I got an email. Through a friend of a friend, I had a brilliant tip off.
My discovery was the fabulous vineyards of Michele Taliano, based in Monta near Alba.
I made an appointment by a series of email messages and made my way to the main street of Monta.
My husband and I were met by Alberto Taliano who opened an unassuming metal door in an unlikely row of bland shops on a main street to reveal a completely surprising scene.
The place was like a Tardis. An ancient courtyard with crates of Barolo grapes ready for processing were piled high. Behind that lay a labyrinth of rooms containing casks of wine, aging barrels, a bottling plant, and areas strewn with customers' demijohns waiting to be filled.
Alberto explained, in perfect English, that he supplied his wine privately to households and restaurants locally – bingo, it’s my ideal place!
We were able to sample all the wines (he had about five varieties) including a crisp white Arneis, which I had not tried before but loved.
We bought so much that we did not bother to drive to nearby Gavi to buy white which was my original plan... Ah well, perhaps next year!
You can contact Alberto through his private email firstname.lastname@example.org if you're in the area, and be sure to mention me.
(Just for disclosure this is not an advert and I don't earn commission. I just love wine.)
Go on, get on the wine trail!