Guide to Italian Wine for Beginners


Dec 07, 2021

Beginner's guide to Italian wine - how to read an Italian wine label, navigate a wine list in Italy, and how to know which wines to drink

Italy is a bucket-list country for many and begs to be seen. We all know that the boot is an amazing beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage and fantastic cuisine. 

What makes Italy the perfect place for wine?

Italy has 20 regions, each as distinctive and unique as the country’s boot-like shape. Snow-capped mountains, tranquil lakes, glistening seas, gentle rolling hills, verdant plains, active and dormant volcanoes, and jagged coastlines fill the landscape.

From tip to toe, the geography is as diverse as the climate and traditions. It is this very diversity - the richness in soil types, the macro and micro climates, the biodiversity in grapes - that makes Italy an incredible region for grape-growing and wine production. 

How many grape varieties does Italy have? 

One can (and should!) marvel at the biodiversity in grape types alone. Italy produces wine from over 350 native grape varieties and new vines, once considered lost, are regularly being rediscovered in the most hidden or forgotten areas.

If we think about Italy and visualize the shape of the country geographically, we can divide the boot into three main parts - North, Central, and South. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are sometimes considered South but they are really two worlds of their own! 

Northern Italy - Wines

Italy is crowned in the North by the Alps and is dotted with peaceful lakes, Lake Como and Lake Garda being the most famous. The acclaimed regions for wine are Piemonte, the land of Barolo and Barbaresco, two world-famous wines produced with the regal Nebbiolo grape; Veneto, home of the bubbly and festive Prosecco and big, bold Amarone; And Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, produces some of Italy’s most crisp, lively white wines. 

DOCG list Northern Italy

Piedmont

  • Alta Langa
  • Asti
  • Barbaresco
  • Barbera d’Asti
  • Barbera del Monferrato Superiore
  • Barolo
  • Brachetto d’Acqui
  • Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba
  • Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore
  • Dogliani
  • Erbaluce di Caluso
  • Gattinara
  • Gavi
  • Ghemme
  • Nizza
  • Roero
  • Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato

Veneto

  • Amarone della Valpolicella
  • Asolo Prosecco
  • Bagnoli Friularo
  • Bardolino Superiore
  • Colli di Conegliano
  • Colli Euganei Fiori d’Arancio
  • Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco
  • Lison
  • Montello Rosso
  • Piave Malanotte
  • Recioto della Valpolicella
  • Recioto di Gambellara
  • Recioto di Soave
  • Soave Superiore

Friuli-Venezia-Giulia

  • Friuli Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit
  • Lison
  • Ramandolo
  • Rosazzo

Lombardy

  • Franciacorta
  • Scanzo o Moscato di Scanzo
  • Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico
  • Sforzato di Valtellina
  • Valtellina Superiore

Trentino - Alto Adige

In Trentino - Alto Adige there are no DOCG.

Liguria

In Liguria there are no DOCG

Aosta Valley

In Aosta Valle there are no DOCG

Central Italy - Wines

The most renowned region in Central Italy is Tuscany, home to Florence, cradle of the Renaissance, with Brunelleschi’s dome soaring above and where the vast majority of Italy’s masterpieces are found. 

Sangiovese vines grow along cypress trees and within the soft green undulating hills. This red grape variety is king and produces food-friendly Chianti wines and elegant, age-worthy Brunello. Of course central Italy is also home to the seat of the ancient Roman empire and today’s bustling capital, Rome. Easy-drinking, youthful wines are produced in its surrounding hills. 

Central Italy DOCG list

Tuscany 

  • Brunello di Montalcino
  • Carmignano
  • Chianti
  • Chianti Classico
  • Elba Aleatico Passito
  • Montecucco Sangiovese
  • Morellino di Scansano
  • Suvereto
  • Val di Cornia Rosso
  • Vernaccia di San Gimignano
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Abruzzo

  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane

Emilia Romagna

  • Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto
  • Albana Romagna

Marche

  • Offida
  • Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva
  • Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva
  • Conero
  • Vernaccia di Serrapetrona

Latium

  • Cannellino di Frascati
  • Cesanese del Piglio
  • Frascati Superiore

Umbria

  • Montefalco Sagrantino
  • Torgiano Rosso Riserva

Southern Italy - Wines

As we move towards the toe and heel, it seems as though the sun grows bigger and brighter. Life slows down a bit - we are definitely in the South. 

The Amalfi Coast, Capri, Naples are top tourist destinations but the region of Campania is also one of the hottest regions for wine. Volcanic soils give way to mineral-rich whites like Greco di Tufo, Fiano and fragrant Falanghina. Taurasi, a bold, age-worthy red wine deemed the “Barolo of the South” is produced from the native grape variety, Aglianico. 

Moving to the heel, the secret seems to be out about Puglia, a region where Italians love to spend their languid August vacations and home to the red grape variety, Primitivo. This grape, a distant cousin to Zinfandel, produces fruit-forward, robust red wines. 

Sicily has a varied history marked by invasions from various peoples and tribes throughout the centuries, lending richness and depth to its traditions. Etna’s rugged landscape and black volcanic soils make it a wine lover's paradise. Of course Italy is so much more! Wine is weaved tightly into the fabric of Italian culture. It pours from every nook and corner of the country, bringing family and friends together in convivial moments. 

Southern Italy DOCG List

Campania

  • Aglianico del Taburno
  • Fiano d’Avellino
  • Greco di Tufo
  • Taurasi

Apulia 

  • Castel del Monte Bombino Nero
  • Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva
  • Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva
  • Primitivo di Manduria dolce naturale

Basilicata

  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane

Sicily

  • Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Calabria


In Calabria are not present DOCG

Molise


In Molise there are no DOCGs



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