Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Wine Report: Grocery Store Whites

There are lots of things that are expensive in Rome, but wine isn't one of them.  If you're hooked on the grape, think about traveling to the Eternal City as a money-saving opportunity.  Every sip, more savings. There are some who think you have to go to a dedicated wine store to get quality, and when we want a bottle to take to a friend's home, that's where we go.  But for everyday consumption, there are quality wines to be had at--horrors--the grocery store.  In New York, of course, the grocery stores aren't allowed to sell wine, and in California, where the sale is allowed, the available wines are for the most part familiar, ordinary, and often expensive.

Rome is different.  Most of the chain stores--SMA and Carrefour were our mainstays--stock a nice selection of affordable wines of reasonable quality.  We're white wine drinkers (as we've noted before on the blog), so here are some of our favorite GROCERY STORE WHITES:

Fiano Sannio

Fiano Sannio.  EURO 4.40  One seldom finds Fiano--the name of the grape--in the US.  But it's common in Rome grocery stores.  This one is from Solopaca, in Campania. It's good without being great.  Dianne described it as mildly tasty, rather undistinguished, a little flat, very yellow, and "pretty nice."  "Good for people who don't like too much "profumato"--perfumed quality--in the wine.  Bill found it very pleasant, with no bad notes, and quite flavorful.  A value at less than 6 bucks a bottle.

Villa Folini Ribolla Gialla, 2013.  EURO 6.29  The "brand" is Villa Folini, the grape Ribolla Gialla--seldom seen in the states.  It's from the Venezia region, bottled in the border city of Gorizia.  Despite the name Gialla, which means yellow, it's light in color.  Bill thought it "quite sophisticated," though how he would know
Ribolla Gialla.  On the dining table in our big room in Rome.
this isn't clear.  Dianne said it was "smoother than the other ones."  More expensive than some, but an excellent value nonetheless.  You could take this to a dinner party.

Circeo Blanco
Circeo D.O.P. Blanco Villa Gianna.  EURO 3.49 [really cheap].  Circeo is a hill town/beach community located on the sea less than a 2-hour drive from Rome.  The big hill is fun to climb and from the top there's a fantastic view of the  curving beach to the north.  Circeo wines aren't normally considered to be high quality, but our experts thought otherwise, at least on this occasion.  Dianne tasted a "bit of citrus" while announcing that the wine was "not wimpy...I like that."  Bill's opinion has been lost.  The wine is a combination of Trebbiano, Chardonnay, and Malvasia grapes.  Malvasia, found in many Italian whites because it is so easy to grow, is not known as a distinguished grape.

Muller Thurgau
Muller Thurgau Storie di Vite.  Trentino doc., 2013.  EURO 6.49  Your wine critics used to drink lots of Muller Thurgau, thinking they were very sophisticated.  Their consumption has been much reduced since they learned that it's generally thought of as a rather ordinary grape.  The tasters had different opinions.  Bill, who never found a white wine he didn't like, described a "balanced mix of fruit and savory."  Dianne [who prefers her wines "dry"] thought it "on the sweet side, relatively."


Malvasia Terra de li Pallavicini.  EURO 3.83.  Malvasia is the grape--again, not a distinguished grounding
for the wine.  The Pallavicini are no doubt a family, or they were, and "terra" refers to their land. The wine comes from Lazio, the region of which Rome is a part, so it's local.  Dianne pronounced it "better than Pinot Grigio," which isn't saying much because she finds nearly all Pinot Grigio to be undistinguished.  It's "pleasant," she added, a bit "flat" and "uninspired, but "adequate if you're returning from a trip and need a drink."  No doubt she was returning from a trip and needed a drink.  Bill: "not bright or flinty," but tasty.

Tenuta Ca' Vescovo

Tenuta Ca' Vescovo.  EURO 6.35  Tenuta means something like "homestead," and Ca' means "house of." The wine is from mountainous Friuli, in the northeast of Italy, from whence come many fine whites.  According to the bottle, the wine or the winery or both is/are very old--dating to the early 15th century.  Dianne:  "got a little profumato to's not puny."  Bill:  "full-bodied, hints of apricots."



Anonymous said...

Terrific recommendations! We spend about 75% LESS in Rome on wine than we did in Portland, OR. Also less on coffee, I might add.

Another recommendation though "upscale" at about €8.50/bottle, is any Donna Fugata wine. Sicilian and dependable. We also like Cusumano "Alcamo," a well-balanced white. So much wine, so little time!

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

from another reader via email:
Love this post, and it reminds me of a story.

In 2010, I would regularly go to a market close to our apartment. There was a wine shop in the market that sold wine from casks. It was GOOD wine and very inexpensive. I saw Romans bringing their own bottles, including water bottles. So I brought water bottles. This was our everyday table wine. Sometimes I would spring for a more expensive bottle, but the wine in this shop often tasted better.

When my daughter and son-in-law arrived, I had to run a few errands. I told them there was chilled mineral water in the fridge. Erik poured himself a glass. After a taste, he said incredulously, "This isn't water!" What really perplexed him is that I am sort of a wine snob, and here I had wine in a water bottle in my fridge.

Here is a place in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin that sells wine in casks. In an article I read about this place, it was explained why wine from a cask would taste so good. The Ruby Tap