Tap into a little taste of Italy

TRY this, says Susan Valentino, offering a small plastic cup.

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Susan Valentino of Vino Valentino, which stocks a selection of Italian wines on draught
Susan Valentino of Vino Valentino, which stocks a selection of Italian wines on draught

With a velvety smooth taste like a Valpolicella or an Amarone, it is no surprise the red Rabo wine is a bestseller at this city shop selling a wonderful selection of Italian food and drinks.

Thousands of litres of the Raboso wine have flooded out of the door since Vino Valentino opened just over a year ago, poured on tap from the kegs into individual bottles.

It's a new concept to Scotland but shops like these, called entocas, can be found on every street corner in towns and villages across Italy. Buy a bottle of wine from the selection on draught and return the empty for a refill at a lower price.

"We have 16 different wines on draught, they all come from the same producer in Treviso, near Venice," explains Susan, who runs the shops with her daughter Michelle.

"They fill up our kegs and send them over to us and we have them all here on tap. There are very few sulphates, so no headaches or hangovers because of the quality of the wine."

Glaswegian Susan married an Italian and moved to Italy 34 years ago. She now lives in Turin, and it was only when her daughter wanted to return to Scotland that they set up the business.

They work alternate months in the shop, with the help of Italian girls Alberta and Sylvie, spending the rest of the time in Italy searching for new local producers and suppliers.

As well as the Rabo, the reds include Rossello, a red with a slight fizz; Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Dolcetto. The Rose is made with a Merlot grape and the whites span from Oroverde, which has a slight natural fizz, to Tocai, Riesling, Chardonnay, Glera made from a Prosecco grape and Prozzin, a blend of Chardonnay and Prosecco grapes.

"It's always nice when people come back and say, that was a really nice wine, I really enjoyed it," says Susan, with a smile.

Friends of the family make the olive oil that is pressed and bottled in Liguria, with another choice from Sicily. And all the limoncello products are from her brother-in-law's cousin in Amalfi.

One wall of the shop in Chancellor Street, off Byres Road, is filled with bottled wines from Italy. On the other, shelves are overflowing with packets of pasta and jars of sauces and fillings.

"All our products here are made by friends in the Barolo area, not far from where we live, and they are all family-run businesses," says Susan.

The mouth-watering selection includes mayonnaise with truffles, rocket sauce, butter with garlic and jars of salami or chilli peppers with Barolo wine.

"The walnut sauce is to die for, have it with pasta, and add some butter and cheese," suggests Susan. "If I have a piece of roast beef cut very thinly, I put the tuna sauce over the top and it's just absolutely fantastic."

At the moment it's a real Barolo fest in the shop, with sauces and pasta infused with wines from the northern Italian region of Piedmont, which all complement each other perfectly.

"You wouldn't get the Barolo pasta in a supermarket or even in a deli here," says Susan.

For a bite of the Barolo region, keep an eye on Vino Valentino's website for news of the next tasting night, likely to be next month. It will all be Barolo: salami, pasta, cheese, jars of figs in Barolo, and from George Mewes on Byres Road, Pecorino cheese with Barolo, as well as four or five Barolo wines to taste.

"We keep the prices low because I bring it all over myself so don't have anybody in the middle," Susan explains.

She has now applied for a licence, so she can set up tables for customers to linger longer.

"We want people to come in, sit down and have a glass of wine. It would be a set price and you would have some of our products on a plate with bread."

And if you're looking for a taste of Italy to take home, ask the girls for recipe suggestions - just like mamma used to make.

l Vino Valentino, 6 Chancellor Street, Glasgow. Visit www.vinovalentino.co.uk

angela.mcmanus@eveningtimes.co.uk

Food and drink

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