So this week my mind has been on planning my summer and the work schedule for it and one of the things that we usually do is to source some scrumptious red wine in Italy in order to bring back a few hundred litres to see me over the winter! No really…. not exaggerating.
I am always so impressed with the quality of low cost house wine in restaurants in Italy that one year I determined to set about finding some for myself and bringing it home.
My friends are always pleased to see our new “house wine” arrive for the season and I often tell people how to get it for themselves so I thought I would share this info with you.
So Vino Sfuso or Vino da Tavola – what is it?
It translates as loose wine – not in the promiscuous sense – 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. in fact if you’re used to drinking the entry level price wine in the UK then it tastes stellar!
The import duty on a bottle of wine at the moment is £2.23 so when you add on the shipping costs, bottle, labels, marketing and retail mark up you can see that a bottle of wine in the UK could easily be of an inferior quality to this Sfuso.
It takes time and patience to find the right Sfuso for you. I have found that when I taste a great house wine in a restaurant and ask about it’s source no-one has ever been prepared to tell me the actual vineyard they buy from.
I have also found that I have bought from vineyards that do not want the general public to know that they sell some wine this way as they want to preserve their image to promote their premier wines so I often get turned away from possible great sources. However I have persevered with them to finally allow me to buy but if I reveal their names they won’t sell to me again.
So, to find somewhere genuine and great takes some spadework but it’s worth it.
Previously we bought Chianti but his year I wanted to buy from Piedmont.
I love Barolo, Barberesco and Gavi so I knew this would be fertile hunting ground for me. I am not a wine expert so if you want to learn more about the grapes take a look here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piemonte_(wine)
It was like searching for a needle in a haystack as Piedmont has so many vineyards but not many that admitted to selling Sfuso. I had almost come to the conclusion that I would just have to turn up in the area and hunt around when suddenly I got an email and through a friend of a friend I had a brilliant tip off.
My discovery was the fabulous Michele Taliano who is based in Monta near Alba which incidentally is near Gavi.
We made an appointment by a series of email message and made our way to the main street of Monta and behind an unassuming metal door lay another world……..
We were met by Alberto Taliano who opened the door revealing an ancient courtyard piled high with crates of Barolo grapes ready for the processing.
Behind that, the place was like a tardis, there lay a labyrinth of rooms containing casks of wine, ageing barrels, a bottling plant and rooms strewn with customers demijohns waiting to be filled.
He explained, in perfect English, that he supplied this 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 types) including a crisp white, Arneis, which I had not tried before but I loved it. In fact so much so that we did not bother to drive to Gavi to buy white which was my original plan… Ah well perhaps next year.
We ordered up about 200 litres and by the time we came back from a leisurely lunch they were all packed up into 5 litre boxes and ready to go.
You can contact Alberto by email firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to mention me.
We stayed in a little hotel in nearby La Morra called Osteria Vignailo. https:/www.vignailo.it
Now I confess that although I call this a hotel it is actually a restaurant with five rooms. Chef Luciano Marengo has been cooking here for 22 years and he certainly knows how to make the most of seasonal produce. I chose the local white truffle pasta and vitello tonnato. Both were exceptional and served up with great service, style and a relaxed atmosphere. The wine list was extensive and the bill surprisingly small. I wanted to stay all week!
They have five rooms which are quite simple, but they are comfortable and pristine clean and with views to die for – and at only 50-70 euros with breakfast thrown in they were heaven sent.
It’s easy to park in the centre of the village right opposite the restaurant and they welcomed my little dog for which there was no extra charge.
La Morra is a proud region, in fact there is a community group which even offers tours of the region with a local person – a nice touch I think.
In my opinion, the gem in the crown of the village is it’s cantina http:/www.cantinalamorra.com which showcases the produce of 50 winemakers. In fact they boast that this represents 35% of the production of Barolo.
Also it’s worth noting that the area is famous for truffes and the International white truffle festival is taking place in nearby Alba on 5th October-24th November https://www.fieradeltartufo.org/
OK so you’re thinking thats interesting but it’s a world away but look at it this way its only an 11 hour drive from calais so with a couple of overnight stops eating and drinking along the way it makes for a great one week holiday with a difference. Carry on another two hours and you could even get the overnight Moby lines ferry from Genoa to Sardinia and make it a longer holiday. Go on you know you want to…………
If you would like any more recommendations in the area or to know more about travelling there please feel free to email me email@example.com