Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Holiday Cheer This Evening: Buying Wine "Alla Spina" in Cannaregio
For those interested, I should note that this little wine shop (which is even smaller than it appears in these images shot with a wide angle lens) is located beside the Cinema Giorgione, a short distance from the church of Sant' Apostoli (heading in the direction of I Gesuiti). Upon the recommendation of a local friend, I ended up purchasing 4 liters of prosecco (frizzante, not firma) here, one liter of Raboso del Piave, and one liter of Pinot Nero for a Christmas day party we were going to attend. All alla spina, or "on tap".
The total cost: 17 euro.
If you'd like to carry your wine home in glass bottles, you should be sure to bring your own clean empty ones. Otherwise wine alla spina will be dispensed into previously-used plastic water bottles, or, if you're willing to pay an additional 40 centesimi per liter, into new bottles shaped like those typically used for wine--but still made out of plastic. (I sprung for two such bottles for the red wines, mistakenly thinking they were glass.)
It's not unusual for the Italians I've met here to have very very precise notions about where and from whom to buy any and everything--from coda di rospo (tail of monkfish) to finocchio (fennel) to outboard motors. Each of the small wine shops you see around Venice get their wine alla spina from their own specific cantina (the name and location of which will be posted). When I arrived on Christmas day with the wine I asked my host, who's originally from Bologna but has lived in Venice for 5 years, why he'd specifically directed me to this wine shop. It certainly wasn't convenient to where he (or I) lived.
It turned out he'd gotten the recommendation from a mutual acquaintance of ours, a native Venetian but, even more crucially, a gondoliere. For, as my friend explained, this gondoliere lived no closer to this wine shop than either of us did, but as gondoliers famously drink dappertutto (everywhere) they can always be counted on to know the best places in the city to get whatever kind of alcohol you're thirsty for.
And though I can't pretend to know the first thing about wines, or to vouch for the taste of anyone at the party, all of the wines I brought seemed to go over quite well. For just 2.10 euro for a liter of Raboso, you may want to try it yourself.