The Secret to Drinking Well in Venice (On a Budget)

Wine shop | hinnosaar/Flickr
Wine shop | hinnosaar/Flickr
Italy has a great tradition of wine, and Venice is no exception. You’ll see locals throwing back little glasses of wine as from early as 11 in the morning. The drink of choice in these parts, however, won’t come from commercial labels. Bottled wine is available, of course, but a little secret that many tourists miss are the shops that sell wine from the barrel.

The wine is called vino sfuso. It’s a young wine, and it always comes from local producers. The wine contains no sulfites or preservatives, and it has a fresher taste than your regular bottled wine. It won’t last very long, so if you wait too long after buying it’ll become vinegar. That means you will have to finish the whole bottle in the first few days. Certainly a heavy burden!

Cantina Ai Do Mori markdoliner/Flickr

You can get vino sfuso at the bar in a small glass which is about half the quantity of a full glass of wine. Be sure to ask for an ombra. It usually costs one euro, much less than a glass of wine from the bottle. Just about any good bar will have it, unless it’s the kind of place that caters only to tourists. People will take them as a quick pick-me-up throughout the day, or as an accompaniment to a little snack.

They’re also sold in wine shops, or vinae, which carry huge barrels of them. You can bring your own bottle or buy one of theirs, and they’ll sell to you by volume at around 2 or 3 euros per liter. It’s a slice of tradition that’s carrying on for budget-minded wine lovers.

Al Bottegon viaggioroutard/Flickr

As for where to go, we have a few suggestions. The classic cicchetti bar Al Bottegon will sell these wines in big liter bottles, as well as by the glass depending on what’s available. They’ve also got a great assortment of liquor and bottled wines at reasonable prices, so it’s a great place to pick up something for a party. In Cannaregio, you’ll find Da Roberto, close to Strada Nova. There’s a curated selection of bottled wine, as well as the wines on tap, including Rosatello, Rabobso, and Chardonnay. In Castello, the place to go is Al Canton del Vin, in Salizada Francesco. They have the largest selection, with barrels filling up the shelves, and specialty balsamic vinegar and olive oils for your cooking needs. Don’t forget to bring your bottles!