The Beginners Guide to Italian Wine

As you probably know, no Italian meal is complete without a nice glass of wine. It seems that Italian food and wine make the ultimate power couple. However, you may not be a wine connoisseur or enthusiast. In fact, no sommelier certification is needed here! We did the research for you and assembled a beginner’s guide to Italian wine so you will know the exact pairings to choose from while traveling to Italy.

Reading the Label 

Certainly, the first thing you will need to learn is how to read an Italian wine label. However, these labels are much different than the ones found in the US. There are several abbreviations you will encounter on Italian food and wine. Some of them are:

  • DOC: This stands for ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata’,  or in English ‘Denomination of Controlled Origin’. These rules are strict but not as strict as a DOCG classification. There are 334 DOC wines in Italy.
  • DOCG: Short for ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita’ (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, in English), is perhaps the highest classification of wine with strict rules governing them. There are only 74 DOCG wines found in Italy.
  • IGT: An abbreviation for ‘Indicazione Geografica Tipica’, this is used for winemakers to use grapes and crafting styles that are from regions outside of Italy, and therefore are not under the two previous labeling. Italy has 118 IGT wines currently.
  • Riserva: this refers to the aging of wine. These wines are aged for far longer than most wines.
  • Superiore: a higher-quality classification that is tracked by the region name of Soave Superiore

Also, there are other less common terminologies you may encounter including:

  • Classico
  • Annata
  • Azienda Agricola
  • Produttore
  • Tenuta
  • Vigneto

Each of these labels will help you determine the quality and origin of the wine you are about to drink. In fact, we think it’s helpful to know the difference before tasting. 

Wine Regions

As you may know, some wines will get their names from the region they are made in or where the grapes come from. There are 20 main regions known for their Italian food and wine. In fact, these regions are as follows:

  • Valle d’Aosta
  • Piedmont
  • Lombardy
  • Liguria
  • Veneto
  • Trentino-Alto Adige
  • Friuli-Venezia Giulia
  • Tuscany
  • Emilia-Romagna
  • Marche
  • Umbria
  • Abruzzo
  • Lazio
  • Molise
  • Basilicata
  • Campania
  • Puglia
  • Sicily
  • Calabria
  • Sardinia

You can, of course, find wine all across Italy. But these regions are most well known for the way they curate the wine and the quality that comes with it. 

Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are often compared to champagne due to the look and feel. However, they are different in many respects. The key is that sparkling wine undergoes a secondary fermentation, creating that signature fizz that you see when you pour yourself a glass.

While you may think of the light amber color associated with prosecco and other sparkling wines, one of our favorite examples is actually red! Known as Lambrusco, this brightly colored wine is from our beloved Emilia Romagna region, and is best enjoyed chilled.

Red Wines

There are several red wines that you can find throughout Italy. For instance, red wine can have a flavor profile ranging from light and fruity, to dry and peppery. This depends on the grapes used, the region of origin, and the processing method. Red wine is dominant on the market and is the most popular across Italy. You will often see red wine used in sauces and stews, and it’s often paired with beef or pork.

Some of our favorite Italian reds from the Emilia Romagna region include Sangiovese, Barbera, and Gutturnio.

White Wines

Although reds are dominant in Italy, you should expect to try some white wine on your wine tasting tour. There are over 500 grape varieties across Italy which is why you will encounter so many different kinds of wines on your next tour. 

White wine is the best choice when paired with seafood. For that reason, you will notice it’s particularly popular in recipes from coastal regions of Italy. Some of Italy’s most iconic white wines include Pinot Grigio and Trebbiano. Saluti!

Schedule an Italian Food and Wine Tour 

To get the ultimate wine tasting experience when traveling to Italy, you will need to schedule an Italian food and wine tour. Here you will get to taste and learn about the best that Italy has to offer. Call Italian Culinary Adventures at 1-818-438-2346 today. Our culinary tours book fast, so don’t miss out on the trip of a lifetime!