House Wine in Italy, Also Known As Vino Sfuso, Is Amazing!

House wines served in restaurants in the US have a bad reputation, but in Italy it is known as Vino Sfuso and it is always a great addition to any meal.

House Wine - Store in Rome

Small Vino Sfuso Store in Rome

Simple and tasty but above all light and suitable for daily consumption. “Wine is not a drink, it is a liquid food.” is how the head of the National Food Safety Committee of the Ministry of Health expressed the food value of wine.

What Is The Meaning Of Vino Sfuso?

The literal meaning of vino sfuso is: loose or bulk wine. More exactly, it is unbottled, bulk or cask wine that a consumer or restaurant can buy more directly from the wine producer. My experience is that the wine isn’t expected to age, but is drunk more immediately. It is inexpensive and a delicious way to save some money.

Paring Italian Food And Wine

I will be the first to admit that I am not a wine scholar, but I like what I like, I have some favorites and I enjoy wine at dinner or at home, which is culturally a little different from the relationship most Italians have with wine. Wine in Italy is an accompaniment to your meal, but for me it is more of an aperitivo to the meal in both a literal and figurative sense. This discussion will be focused on Italian bulk wine, or Vino Sfuso.

Types Of House Wine In Italy

Vino Sfuso is available in a few different containers, some of which are historically viewed as lower quality than their glass-bottle counterparts. When you go to a vino sfuso wine shop, you typically have two options:

House Wine - Strawberries

Wine and Strawberries Are A Great Combination

  1. Bring your own cleaned out glass or plastic bottle and have it refilled in the store.
  2. Buy an inexpensive plastic bottle from the store that they will fill for you.

An alternative is buying vino sfuso online from a number of vendors that, sadly, only ship in Europe or only Italy. I say sadly because for a long time I unsuccessfully tried to find an equivalent in the US and when that failed, I also tried to have it shipped from Italy which is also not allowed. 

If you are in the shipping range of a vendor, one shipping option is the Bag-in-the-Box (damigiana). It is a box made of cardboard, which contains a bag made of polyethylene for food products lining the inside with a heat-sealed tap for dispensing these are wines that have equal dignity to that of their brothers in the bottle. The grapes with which they are made often come from a first harvest carried out in the same vineyards. Their life is simply shorter as they are not aged.

House Wine And Slow Food

House Wine - Prosecco

Fresh Frizzante and Prosecco

Since the time of the pandemic, Italians have seen an increase in the consumption of “Everyday Wines“, and the Italian house wine fit into this category. The Slow Food Movement, a reaction to the expansion of Fast Food in Italy, had ventured a definition of Everyday Wines years ago, which led to a guidebook: “Guide to Daily Wine” in 2014. The definition highlighted the method of use of the wine and the quality / price ratio: They are normally wines that have a shelf cost of no more than €10 euros, and due to their character of immediacy, freshness and drinkability lend themselves to frequent consumption and match well with Italian cuisine.

House Wine - Barrels

Large Steel Barrels Full of Wine

Italian Red And White House Wines

When you enter a Vino Sfuso shop, you will be able to find a wide range of wines available to you. What is available is driven by which vineyards the store has a relationship with and what region you are in. For example, if you are in Rome, the vino sfuso you’ll find would typically be locally grown in the Lazio region. These wouldn’t be shipped around the country because they are so recently available, they wouldn’t necessarily ship well and Italians prefer their own wine, which pairs best with their food.

One happy surprise to me was how easy it was to find a sparkling wine (Spumante) available. I’m not certain that all the wines labeled as Prosecco are always from the nine provinces in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, but we did get a 3 liter plastic bottle filled with Prosecco in Venice and enjoyed it on our train ride back to Rome which is one of my favorite traveling memories in Italy.

House Wine In Italy Is Vino della Casa

The other place you can usually get vino sfuso is on an Italian menu. The house wine (vino della casa) is frequently available in your local trattoria and this is how we were first exposed to it. You only need to decide if you want red or white and the rest has already been left up to the restaurant owner.

Italian House Wines Are Great!

These are inexpensive wines, but they aren’t “cheap” wines. The reputation of the restaurant includes their choice of house wines, so you shouldn’t be dismissive about choosing one.  Again, don’t expect something complex, barrel-aged and ready for your wine cellar. Expect something fresh, recently barreled and ready to drink with almost any meal.

House Wine - Eataly

Vino Sfuso Available at Eataly in Rome

If you enjoyed this discussion about house wines in Italy, a.k.a. vino sfuso, here is more information about the drinking culture and treasures of Italy. Take a look at these posts to better understand the Italian relationship with alcohol:

Similar Posts