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!
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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.
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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!
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!