To Italians, wine isn't a special occasion treat; it's a daily staple like salt and pepper. Italian kids grow up on watered down wine at the dinner table like American kids drink soda pop. So, do Italians opt for expensive wines at every meal - no. If it's not wine that grandpa made, it's sfuso.
Sfuso is fresh, bulk wine that hasn't been aged in wooden barrels for one or two years. There's no brand name, no label, and no bottle to add up costs. Sfusos are local wines said to be made from the grapes that are not bottle worthy. Known as vino da tavola (table wine) or vino della casa (house wine), it's the wine families drink and restaurant serve and, honestly, can be damned good! Sfuso has no additives or preservatives and is best drunk quickly - And who wouldn't?
Gotta find a sfuso shop when I'm in town!
Sfuso stores are typically small, family owed shops filled with huge bottles or stainless steel tanks tapped by hoses. Why the hoses? So you can "fill'er up," of course. It's a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) situation of wine on tap. You bring an empty bottle (water bottle, corked jug or whatever) and hose into it the wine you like. Then, you bring the bottle up to the cashier and are charged by the liter for the type wine you've selected. Prices are as low as 1 to 3 euros a liter.
You'll be overwhelmed in a sfuso store because there'll be many varieties of wine from which to choose. Don't know which one you'll like? No problem. Pull up a plastic cup and do a tasting until you find the one that suits your tastebuds. The fella or gal behind the counter is happy to answer questions and give suggestions.
The next time you're in Italy, ask a local where to find their favorite sfuso store and head over with your empty bottle. Then, go to the local cheese and salame store and fill a bag with some goodies. Next, sit yourself down at a park bench with a pretty view (lotsa them in Italy) and ENJOY! Having your wine outdoors is legal in Italy. Or, if you're at a restaurant in Italy, ask for vino della casa or vino da tavola - it's sfuso and you'll enjoy it there, too, plus save a load of money on your bill.
- Nina Spitzer
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