Vino Sfuso a.k.a. Bulk Wine

17 Feb

Today I had the pleasurable horrifying experience that all of us here in Rome dread: having to go to the Italian post office. (If you’re new around these parts, see this, this, this, and this, in no particular order.)

There was a package that a friend of mine sent, that I had to pick up personally from the post office, because I mistakenly forgot to instruct him to write “no value” on the US customs label, thereby avoiding any sort of random customs charges getting slapped on over on this side of the pond. The post office where they left the package was a neighborhood a couple blocks over from my own. Arbitrarily enough, for this package the PT gods decided that €15,10 plus €0,53 as a “holding charge” for holding the package at the post office for me for two weeks, was the sufficient amount.

Wine! Yes, I’m getting there.

So, I took my number at the post office and had fifteen people in front of me. Once I saw that the average time for the “P” numbers (ie, “pacchi”) was about 5 minutes per turn, I decided to wait outside like the other sage postal customers. And next door to the post office, what do I see? This:


That there folks is what we call “Vino Sfuso,” aka “unbottled wine.” So I’m sitting on my little bench out in front of the post office and I think to myself, yes, unbottled wine. I might as well.

So here’s the thing: vino sfuso is a really nice way to save a bit of money on your daily table wine. You see, here in Italy, as you probably already know, wine isn’t seen as something we drink just for special occasions, but rather something we can indulge in on a daily basis with lunch, dinner, or both. (No, I have not tried putting wine on my breakfast cereal. I still use milk for that.) Vino sfuso is a nice way to get a simple “table wine” without spending a lot.

Before you go thinking I’ve discovered the wheel here, many other bloggers have sung the praises of vino sfuso before me. Girl in Florence Why I Love Vino Sfuso, i-Italy Wine from the Pump, Studentsville Florence Blog A 10-Point Introduction to Vino Sfuso: Your Solution to Good, Cheap Wine in Italy. (Leave it to the students to know what they’re talking about!)

It’s just that in all my years, I’ve never written for y’all about vino sfuso. So, now is as good a time as any!

Strangely, the owner’s wife in this store (the owner wasn’t there) told me I couldn’t take pictures inside because “we had someone ask us to do something like that before and it didn’t turn out well.” She didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t push. I mean, come on. My blog is free and I do it as a hobby. So, rather than take her suggestion to come back a few days later to talk to her husband about the possibility of taking in-store photos for my blog (as if!) I just took an outside shot, and the shot you’re about to see, of the bottle I bought.

There were about 5 big stainless steel tanks with a tap for whites, and about 5 for reds. Then, underneath all the tanks, there were clean 5-liter plastic jugs and 1.5-liter plastic bottles with caps. I chose a Sicilian wine, “nero d’avola,” for €1,90 per liter. The lady took out a clean 1.5-liter plastic bottle and it was all “fill ‘er up!”

Let me tell you something: I am no frills when it comes to wine in this house. I am raising three little children by myself, I am single, and I work. I need my adult beverage liquid sanity. And yet, my ex-husband is a sommelier. That being said, I’ve been treated to some pretty fancy schmancy wines in my day. And yet, give me a good, old-fashioned red table wine and I’m happy as a clam. (Aside: who determined that clams are so damn happy?)

So, here you have it, folks. No label. We don’t need labels around here! No siree bob! Just give us some drinkable red that goes down like a charm, and we (royal we) have the perfect accompaniment to a lunch that is suitable for a wine with no label: fresh-baked “ciabatta” roll, prosciutto di parma, ricotta di pecora, and–wait for it–potato chips.

That’s right. We drink wine with potato chips around here. Got a problem with that?


I strategically placed my humble bottle of vino sfuso on my kitchen counter next to the pasta jars and the lighters that almost every Italian household needs for their gas burners.

My verdict? Fantastic. This shows you where priorities lie. In the US, we have the “bulk foods” section of the supermarket. The more food you buy, the more you save. Here in Italy we have the “bulk wine” mini-market. The more wine you buy, the more you save.

And you continue to ask me why I decided to settle here? Pshaw!

BTW, in case you were wondering (and I’m sure you weren’t, so I’ll help you along) why I was at the post office in the first place, it’s because I needed to pick up a very special shipment from Arizona that contained this T-shirt:


What? You didn’t know about the Fighting Artichokes? Shame on you!


16 Responses to “Vino Sfuso a.k.a. Bulk Wine”

  1. Jennifer Avventura February 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Great post. I just asked our local supermarket “ma, quello vino che fa il tuo padre, c’e?” πŸ™‚

  2. February 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    I’ve thought about exporting this idea (Vino Sfuso, Bar and Package Store, anyone?) to the US, but somehow I don’t think it would fly. For one thing, there are probably laws leftover from prohibition that would prevent this practice. But also, I don’t know if Americans would embrace the idea…generally, quality is considered directly proportional to price, so probably only the winos would buy it. (Unless, perhaps, you tripled the price and put the same wine in a fancier bottle.)

    And finally, I’d like to join you in your support of the “Artichokes,” but my allegiance is and always has been to the “Fighting Banana Slugs” of UC Santa Cruz. Best slogan ever: “Banana Slugs–No Known Predators!”

  3. Joan Schmelzle February 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    Really enjoyed the post. I’m glad I found it recently as I love Rome. At the end your name rang a bell. Did you write another post not too long ago–maybe a couple of years. If so I read it then.
    I’d like to find some of that good red table wine here in the US too. I’m not one of those who thinks price means good. I stick to around $9 for 1.5L.

  4. Joan Schmelzle February 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Whoops I should have write another blog!

  5. Bonnie Gallentine Melielo February 17, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    10 years, 12 trips to Italy and we have yet to see a Vini Sfusi! Where are they hiding? πŸ˜‰

  6. Scottsdale Community College February 18, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    Thank you for the mention! We love our Artie Artichoke and glad to see you do too!

  7. paolino February 22, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    scusa, ma perche’ non torni in oklaoma e te ce perdi?

  8. codecables February 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    haha, on the hand, to say it with the slogan of my favorite Roman wine bar, life is too short to drink cheap wine πŸ˜‰ cheers!

  9. Shelley Ruelle March 13, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Hi Joan, yes, I’ve been writing about Rome since 2006, so it’s possible you’ve seen one of my posts previously. Thanks for reading!

  10. Shelley Ruelle March 13, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    My blog has gone under different names in the past, as in 2006 it was associated with a holiday apartments business that I ran in Trastevere. Really Rome. Also, At Home in Rome.

  11. Shelley Ruelle March 13, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Hmm, that’s interesting. They’re out there. Perhaps more so in the small towns but if you search them out you can find them in the big cities as well!

  12. Shelley Ruelle March 13, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    Absolutely! Coach Vargas is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We go back to times together at NAU in Flagstaff and shared our European experiences for many years over here on this side of the pond.

  13. Shelley Ruelle March 13, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    Yes, true. Although, price doesn’t always determine quality! This one was decent. Nothing fancy, but, wonderful table wine!

  14. Shelley Ruelle March 13, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    I can’t but if you check Facebook for Rome expat groups or post an ad on, you’ll probably find someone.

  15. Gary November 6, 2014 at 5:24 am #

    Anyone know where to get one of the smaller stainless steel canisters they use to store sfusi??

  16. sioso June 19, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    what was the address of the Vini Sfusi featured in the blog post?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: