Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Sardinia’s iron-wire wine

Here’s something a little different from the usual spritely whites or bountiful red wines you expect from Italy. Fil’ e ferru is a type of brandy from Sardinia, made from the fermented skins of local vermentino or vernaccia grapes. Clocking in at 40% alcohol, it’s not to be taken lightly, even if the story of how it got its name may raise a smile.

Fil’e ferru literally means ‘iron wire’. The drink is rumored to have got its name in the late nineteenth century, when distillers were at loggerheads with the Italian authorities who were taxing the production of spirits extremely heavily.

To hide production from them, once bottled, makers of the drink would bury it in the ground until it was bought. So as not to lose their precious treasure, each bottle would have a thread of wire twisted around its neck and the tip left poking out from the soil, leaving it hidden, yet easy to find. Eventually, the taxes were lowered and the bottles brought back in the open, but the name stuck.