I apologize for my unannounced absence last week. My wife and I were in Italy. We visited Rome, Positano and Ostia Antica. I’m getting over my jetlag and catching up, so I thought I’d just mention a few observations I made in Italy about alcoholic beverages.
- The wine is cheap (and good).
We stayed in an apartment in Rome for a few days and would bring home wine from Todis® after a long day of walking around and seeing some sights. Good bottles (at least good enough for us) could be purchased for between about € 3,99 – 6,99 (a ceiling of $6.37 at today’s exchange rate, too bad we didn’t wait a week). I suppose that’s because there are no shipping or import duties rolled into the cost. It’s all local! Even at restaurants, it wasn’t too bad.
- People walk around with drinks.
I don’t profess to know the open container policy of any locality within Italy, but we saw a number of folks walking around with one. In Rome, we’d only see this occasionally. I got the feeling it’s not illegal, but maybe it’s not the classiest thing to do, so the people just regulate their own activities as that goes (except in Positano, probably due to the high concentration of American tourists – particularly the young ones). I did, however, read that Rome’s mayor placed a ban on alcohol in streets and piazzas on summer evenings, so if you want to walk around with it wait ‘til fall.
- Italy has superalcoholic beverages!
OK, that just means liquor, aka distilled beverages. Beer and wine are merely alcoholic beverages. I like that terminology.
They can’t purchase alcohol, but there is no criminal liability for consuming it publicly unless they are found to be intoxicated (adults can get fined for that too). I hear that technically, however, the authorities are supposed to take them home to mom and dad and tell them what happened though. I also hear that the authorities usually have better things to do so that never happens.
- Wine laws.
The Italian wine laws deal mostly with quality, although compliance is not an absolute requirement. “Table wine” is the lowest quality wine (which I found just fine). Then you have Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), in increasing order of quality. DOC wines can only be made from certain types of grapes and from designated regions, such as Chianti. DOCG is the same as DOC, except they have better-established quality controls in their production.
On our last evening, in Ostia Antica, I asked a waiter at a restaurant if he recommended any particular digestive after dinner. He said, “Grappa is always free”. Then he introduced a bottle of it to our table with a couple of glasses. Basically it’s a spirit made from the leftovers of the winemaking process. Now I know why it’s free!
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