expat, food, italy, tips, Uncategorized

Must-read: Tips for buying wine at the supermarket

I recently wrote about how to buy wine in a supermarket in Italy on www.insidersabroad.com ( a great all-about-Italy resource and English yellow pages directory for all of Italy) and I of course must share on my blog since wine is my non-animate best friend!

I am sure my parents love all of the wine-related photos I seem to constantly publish – but hey, its heart-healthy no? (a glass a day keeps the doctor away, I like to say, right I will go ahead and stop rhyming now). So if you can’t go to an enoteca or wine producer yourself to pick up bottles, and let’s get real who has the TIME or MONEY to do that as a young person trying to survive in another country; you probably get your wine at the supermarket, no? (or more likely in my case, the local vino sfuso) The problem is who knows what to pick, why there are 1,000,000 different bottles of Chianti, which is actually good – or fizzy and what’s just crap with a nice label; it can be overwhelming.

The tips I got for picking wine out among the many choices came from a fantastic Italian blog http://simodivino.blogspot.it/2012/02/acquistare-vino-al-supermercatoecco.html.

  • WHERE: The first tip mentioned is regarding where you need to go? Your best bet is to pick up wine where they have the most selection (captain obvious) ie: Coop, Ipercoop, Auchan, Esselunga, Carrefour – all of which have a pretty wide range of wine. What you should avoid are mini-markets and small supermarkets which normally have much less selection and lets ahem say not the best choices and/or storing.
  • PRICE: Tip number 2 – how much you should expect to pay for a bottle. Needless to say this cheap girl’s heart was broken when they wrote to avoid any bottle under 5 euros. I know I know, all wine is good in Italy right? So not true, just think about what it must cost to bottle and transport the wine and you may then start to wonder why some wine is so cheap. Does this mean you need to spend 10 euros or more for a decent bottle? Not at all – think more on the lines of 5-8 euros and you should walk away with something you really will enjoy. Another alternative for every-day table wine is to go to a vino sfuso where you can funnel wine taken from local agricolas and normally the cost is about 2-4 euros ( My favorite guy is within walking distance from my house – read dangerous).
  • BEST-DEAL? Often brands have a range of differently priced wines at the supermarket that you can choose from. I would not assume that the lowest-priced or ‘best deal’ is the right choice.  It can be a big difference from a cheap Chianti from lets say Rufina to a moderately priced version from the same farm. When Esselunga or Coop offer ‘special deals’ on certain bottles, instead of buying 5 at once, go ahead and just get one so you can see if it’s actually GOOD before you come back and pick up some more. It’s very tempting to get the cheapest version but a difference of even a euro or two really does matter.
  • APPEARANCE: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? If only! This is pretty interesting and I never really thought about it before but let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute, we really do judge a book by its cover sometimes. I know I normally would pick up a bottle with the label looking most ‘authentic‘ whatever that means (usually including an old farmhouse). While that can be no guarantee, what you can be assured of is that if a bottle has a cheap laminated bright label –  probably the wine ain’t so good! No fluorescent-color and cheap graphics needs to be on a label. Honestly why not just leave the bottle without a label and add a little tag, trust me people would love it!
  • READING THE LABEL: Something I probably personally haven’t done enough but should be pretty obvious – um you have to actually read the label to see what your drinking.  Look for words like “frizzante”, “vivace” o “fermo” to see if it’s a fizzy wine, or flat so you don’t end up at home with a glass full of foam (unless you like it!). A good lambrusco can be a world of difference than a bad one, I actually used to detest it until I finally was converted. Another item to check is what grapes were used since some bottles can be a little sneaky in their wording. Take a look at where the bottle was sourced – you want the wineries to make everything in-house so make sure it say’s “imbottigliato all’origine”. Just another guarantee against ‘clever’ manufacturers.
  • BEST TIP: This makes total sense but was yet another thing I never thought about.  Avoid the first bottle on the shelf. Most of the bottles sold at supermarkets are medium-to-low priced so the most expensive bottles tend to stay on the shelves for sometimes months. This can mean that the ‘display’ or ‘first’ bottle has been exposed to the blinding light in the supermarket for some time and it really can change the quality of the wine, so just reach in the back and get one of the cooler non-exposed versions. The last thing you want to do is pick up a bottle at Coop and have it taste funky; especially if like me, spending more than 5 euros on a bottle is kind of a big deal!
Some other things to keep in mind while shopping for that perfect bottle – take time to look through the options, don’t rush or take the advice of the first person in a suit hanging around ready to give their “expert” opinion. What matters is that you get something that is right for you, and not what someone else say’s is the best so that they can look cool and “wine-smart”.
*Don’t be scared to try new wines that you may be unfamiliar with. While I am a lover of Chianti Rufina and a nice white pecorino wine which is always available in these parts. I also really enjoy new-blends and ‘branching-out” wine-wise. I just discovered how awesome wines are from Piedmont – think a beautiful red Barolo and a riesling from Treviso.
*Avoid the horrible Santa Christina, Remole, and pick up a Slyvaner, Frapputo or Montecucco instead of a Muller Thurgau. 

Hopefully these tips can help you better choose un bel vino at the local supermarket and I let me know if I missed anything. Winos, share your secrets!

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11 Comment

  1. Reply
    simone
    15.06.2012 at 18:29

    Hello,
    I am Simone of SimodiVino …
    thanks to defined my wine-blog ‘fantastic Italian blog’ …
    congratulations on your blog and good drink … and sorry for my bad english 🙂
    Ciao

    1. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      15.06.2012 at 19:06

      ciao simone! your blog was fantastic, it really helped me choose better wine and I have been sharing your tips ever since. cmq parlo anche italiano ( e faccio sempre errore.. lol) pero davvero complimenti per il TUO blog!

  2. Reply
    Sara White
    07.02.2013 at 10:27

    Great tips! I’m constantly overwhelmed by choice in the supermarkets, and since I can’t exactly ask an employee for a great wine recommendation (I’m sure they’d look at me like I came from another planet… so not in their job descriptions) I always end up going with the same couple of standbys. Time to branch out into some new stuff, I think!

    1. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      07.02.2013 at 10:32

      ya know I was in exactly the same boat, scanning over so many different colorful labels and not knowing which one to choose. When I saw this Italian blog post, it was the motivation I needed to take a closer look. Especially about not getting the wine first in line (closest to the light). since even if it’s 20 euros, the flourscent lighting on the supermarket could have marred it by this time! So I always have people staring at me while I dig deep to get that bottle haha! Lately, I have been really into wines from piemonte

  3. Reply
    Bianca
    11.03.2013 at 10:38

    Good tips. I’ve heard about places where you can buy wine in bulk (vino sfuso) in Europe but they are not common place in Australia. I’ll be in France in July so I’m sure I’ll find something similar there.
    But what we do have are ‘clean skins’ – bottles without a proper label (like your suggestion) that are often quite good. They are used as a way for wineries to get rid of excess cheaply.

  4. Reply
    thenomadchef
    11.03.2013 at 13:32

    I never thought about avoid the ‘first bottle’. Thanks for the excellent advice!

    1. Reply
      ggnitaly84
      11.03.2013 at 13:37

      I often grab that first one still and then run back before paying when I realized my own error 🙂

  5. Reply
    Torch Cigar Bar
    27.09.2016 at 8:42

    For a wine lover like me, post like this matters a lot. This gives me enough ideas on how to buy the perfect and tastiest wines I can add to my collection. Thanks for the advice and tips. I know a lot better now.

  6. Reply
    Brian
    07.06.2018 at 8:23

    Nice advice here. Wine at market doesn’t have to be expensive. I think you can get a nice little one to hold around 12 bottles for about $150 or so. Worth it in my opinion if you’re spending the money on good wine anyways.

  7. Reply
    Tina
    07.06.2018 at 8:25

    When I saw this Italian blog post, it was the motivation I needed to take a closer look. Especially about not getting the wine first in line (closest to the light). since even if it’s 20 euros, the flourscent lighting on the supermarket could have marred it by this time!

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      09.06.2018 at 11:26

      It’s happened to the best of us! I try to go to local enotecas now to pick up wine but when I’m in a pinch reaching in the back does a world of good. Who knows how long its been baking in those lights up front..

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