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About Italian Wine – Everything You Need to Know

Italian wine varieties offer an unmatched diversity, with a broad selection of premium options available to suit any taste profile and dining occasion. The extensive range of flavors and tastes in Italian wines stems from the unique combination of grape varieties used and the distinct wine-producing regions throughout Italy. Each region contributes its unique characteristics to the wine, influenced by local grape types and terroir.

The complexity and subtleties of Italian wines make it essential to understand the different varieties and types. This depth of variation ensures that there is an Italian wine to complement any meal, whether you're dining on pasta, seafood, or a hearty meat dish. Whether you're seeking a bold red, a crisp white, or a sparkling variety, the rich tapestry of Italian wine varieties has something to offer every palate.

Italy's Wine Production

Italy is a renowned leader in the world of wine, known for its vibrant viniculture and a tradition of experimentation and innovation. Italian wine varieties encompass the familiar categories of red and white wines, but they stand apart due to a crucial distinction.

Unique to Italy, these wines are crafted from grape varieties that are indigenous to specific Italian regions. This regional diversity allows Italian winemakers to produce wines with distinct flavors and aromas, setting them apart from global competitors. Each variety brings a different palette of notes and tastes, reflecting the unique terroir and winemaking traditions of their origin.

In this guide, we will delve into how to select the ideal Italian wine for your preferences, focusing on the various grape types and regions. Whether you're exploring bold reds or refreshing whites, understanding these choices will enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of Italian wine varieties.

Fun Facts About Italian Wine

Italian wines are fascinating and rich in diversity, offering a variety of characteristics that set them apart from other European wines. Here are some intriguing facts about Italian wine that you might not know:

  • Lax Regulations Compared to France While French winemaking is governed by stringent appellation controls to ensure authenticity and high quality, Italian wine rules are comparatively relaxed. Italian wine varieties may be grown across multiple regions or even nationwide, yet they still maintain high quality and are considered authentic Italian wines, despite having slightly varied characteristics from one region to another.
  • Esoteric Naming Conventions Unlike some of the globally renowned French wines, many Italian wines carry names that are lesser-known internationally. These esoteric wines might not be exclusive in terms of price but often feature unique flavors that maintain a low profile. They're as affordable and high-quality as more familiar varieties but are celebrated for their distinctive tastes, primarily within Italy.
  • Regional Names for the Same Varietal The diversity in naming the same wine variety across different Italian regions can be attributed to Italy's relatively recent unification in 1861. Before then, Italy was made up of separate states, each with its own identity. This historical division is reflected in the wine names, with regions continuing to use distinct names for what may essentially be the same type of wine.

These elements contribute to the complex yet intriguing world of Italian wines, highlighting the nation's rich viticultural heritage and its flexible approach to wine variety classification.

Wine Varieties in Italy

Wine making has a long history in Italy, with a wide variety of wines to show for it.


Introducing Sangiovese, the most widely cultivated grape across Italy, known for its versatility and distinctive regional expressions. This grape is the foundation of many well-known Italian wines, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and Morellino di Scansano. Sangiovese thrives across various Italian regions, with each area imparting unique characteristics to the wine due to differences in climate, harvest techniques, and production methods.

In Tuscany, Sangiovese produces wines that are earthy with bold tannins and rich notes of black cherry. Conversely, in Campania, the same grape yields lighter wines with delicate flavors of roses and strawberries. Typically, Sangiovese wines are best aged between four to seven years, though many can last much longer under proper conditions.

While Italy's vast array of wine varieties is too extensive to cover in a short time, Sangiovese provides a perfect starting point for exploring some of the best that Italian winemaking has to offer.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio, known as Pinot Gris in France, made its way into northern Italy around the turn of the 20th century and has surged in popularity over the past four decades. This Italian wine variety has enjoyed widespread commercial success internationally, becoming a staple in wine collections around the world.

As a wine, Pinot Grigio is light-bodied with high acidity, offering a spectrum of flavors from mineral notes to more fruity undertones like peach. The most acclaimed examples of this variety are produced in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a region that is particularly well-suited to cultivating this grape, thus enhancing its profile and making it a prominent representative of Italian wine varieties.


Verdicchio represents a notable enhancement over Trebbiano, offering a richer profile in both flavor and character. This Italian wine variety is distinguished by its crisp acidity and delightful aromatic complexity, featuring hints of sea air and fresh lemon. Verdicchio is celebrated for its depth and the structured palate it delivers, making it a standout among Italian white wines. The grape's potential to express a unique terroir-driven character makes it particularly appealing, as it captures the essence of the regions where it is cultivated. Wine enthusiasts appreciate Verdicchio for its refreshing zestiness and the way it pairs beautifully with a variety of dishes, enhancing its reputation within the Italian wine varieties.


Dolcetto, a wine variety known for its deep red color, low acidity, and high tannins, is designed to be enjoyed young, ideally within the first three years of its vintage. This Italian wine is famously easy to drink without the need for extended aging, contributing to its popularity across several key regions, including Lombardy and Piedmont. Recognizable under several regional names such as Dogliani, Dolcetto d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Ovada, and Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba, Dolcetto is appreciated for its approachability and versatility. This makes it a common choice for those looking to explore Italian wine varieties that offer both simplicity and rich flavor profiles.


Nebbiolo, a distinguished variety of red Italian wine, originates from the warmer regions of Italy and is renowned for its tannic structure, bold flavors, and longevity. This grape can produce wines that are surprisingly tart and delicate, characterized by aromatic notes of bing cherries and roses. Nebbiolo wines are typically aged for seven to ten years to fully develop their complex profile, making them less common compared to more widely planted varieties.

In the landscape of Italian wines, Nebbiolo is relatively rare; there are almost fifty times more plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon than Nebbiolo in Italy. Despite its scarcity, Nebbiolo is the prestigious grape behind some of Italy's most revered wines, including Barbaresco, Barolo, Valtellina, Roero, Ghemme, Gattinara, and Sforzato. Each of these wines showcases the unique capacity of the Nebbiolo grape to reflect the terroir of its region, contributing to its status as a celebrated Italian wine variety known for depth, complexity, and elegance.


Italian culture is known for its laid-back approach, and while this ethos enriches many aspects of life, it poses unique challenges in the winemaking world. In Italy, where the wine scene is as diverse as its scenic landscapes, Trebbiano is the most common white wine grape. Typically found in central Italy, Trebbiano is not universally acclaimed despite its prevalence. However, when cultivated with care, some Trebbiano wines exhibit exceptional character and quality, offering a crisp and economical choice that is definitely worth exploring.

Trebbiano has numerous clones that contribute to its widespread cultivation, including Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Trebbiano di Romagna, Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano Giallo, and Procanico. These varieties underscore its versatility and importance in Italian viticulture. Additionally, Trebbiano often serves as a base for other popular white wine blends like Frascati.

Typically, Trebbiano wines are very dry and acidic, but recent production methods have introduced some sweeter versions. These sweeter variants tone down the grape's innate crispness but can add an appealing flavor complexity for those who prefer a less austere wine. This adaptability makes Trebbiano a significant and interesting player in the variety of Italian wines.


Italy is home to two distinct white wines named Vernaccia, originating from Tuscany and Sardinia, with a third, a red Vernaccia variety, hailing from the Marche region. This can certainly cause some confusion for those exploring Italian wine varieties.

The Vernaccia from Tuscany is considered the most esteemed among these, noted for its exquisite mineral nuances. Unique among many white wines, it benefits significantly from aging in oak barrels, which enhances its character and adds complexity to its flavor profile. This aging process allows the Tuscan Vernaccia to develop a depth that is uncommon in many other white wines, making it a standout example of Italian winemaking excellence.

Tocai Friulano

While Pinot Grigio often captures the spotlight, Tocai Friulano stands out as the most widely planted grape in the Friuli region of Italy. This variety typically produces light to medium-bodied wines, distinguished by a rich, thick texture that carries more flavor than many other Italian white wines.

There is some debate among ampelographers regarding Tocai Friulano's identity, with some suggesting it is the same as Sauvignon Vert, which is used in Chile to produce Sauvignon Blanc. Despite the genetic similarities, the wines produced from these grapes differ significantly in taste and character. Adding to the complexity, there is often confusion due to the similarly named Tokaji wine region in Hungary, although the wines and grapes involved are distinct. This mix-up underscores the rich tapestry of Italian wine varieties and their intricate global connections.


Arneis, a captivating white wine variety from Piedmont, Italy, has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. This ancient grape is celebrated for its rich flavors, marked by soft tannins that make it exceptionally approachable. Arneis wines often exhibit delightful aromatic notes of flowers, almonds, and melon, creating a complex and refreshing profile. This variety’s unique character and the renaissance of interest highlight its significance within the broader spectrum of Italian wine varieties, offering a delightful alternative to the more commonly known Italian reds and whites.


Initially mistaken for Pinot Blanc until the 1970s, Chardonnay has since established itself as a widely popular grape both in Italy and globally. Italian Chardonnay is particularly noted for its crisp, lean character, differing from more fruity and oaky versions found elsewhere due to less aging in oak barrels. This grape adapts well to various Italian regions, producing wines that showcase a pure expression of varietal character and terroir, making it a favorite among those who prefer a more refined and straightforward profile in their white wines.


Cortese is celebrated for producing the crisp, light-bodied white wines of Piedmont, notably Gavi. The wine is appreciated for its delicate apple and citrus flavors, intertwined with notes of honey and distinct mineral undertones. These characteristics make Cortese a refreshing choice, particularly valued during the warmer months. It thrives in the cooler climates of northern Italy, where the conditions accentuate its vibrant acidity and aromatic purity.


Originating from Campania in southern Italy, Fiano is known for its rich fragrance and flavorful profile. This medium-bodied wine ages well, developing a more complex bouquet over time that includes hints of spices and nuts alongside its natural fruity essence. Fiano’s adaptability to the warm southern climate allows it to maintain high levels of acidity, which contribute to its aging potential and popularity among connoisseurs of Italian whites.


The primary grape used in Soave wines, Garganega contributes to the creation of rich and refined white wines known for their smooth, unctuous character. This variety was long underappreciated but has gained recognition for its quality and aging potential. Garganega’s subtle flavors include almond and citrus blossom, which evolve beautifully, particularly in the volcanic soils of the Veneto region, adding complexity to the wines.


Native to southern Italy, Greco produces highly aromatic, crisp, and floral wines that embody the sun-drenched terroirs of regions like Campania. This variety is known for its robust character and high viscosity, offering a rich palate experience that pairs well with the region's seafood and rich cuisine. Greco's ability to express a range of nuanced flavors, from peach to almond, makes it a staple among Italian white wines.

Valpolicella Blend

The Valpolicella blend, combining Rondinella, Molinara, and Corvina, is a versatile wine from Veneto, ranging from light and tart to rich and robust. These wines can express a spectrum of flavors, from cherry and red berry in lighter versions to more complex notes of chocolate and almond in aged expressions like Amarone and Ripasso, showcasing the diversity of this iconic blend.


Malvasia is a fragrant wine variety found throughout Italy, known for its ability to produce both dry and sweet wines. This variety is prone to oxidation, which adds complexity and depth to the wines. It is often blended with Trebbiano to enhance its richness and texture. Malvasia’s aromatic profile is broad, offering flavors from ripe tropical fruit to fresh nuts, making it a versatile choice for blending or enjoying on its own.


Moscato, widely cultivated across Italy, is renowned for its perfumed, floral qualities, with Moscato d’Asti and sparkling Asti among the most popular styles. This grape can produce beautifully aromatic wines that range in color from golden to red, often used in blends to add sweetness and floral notes. The versatility of Moscato allows it to shine both as a standalone varietal and as part of intriguing blends.

Pinot Bianco

Pinot Bianco, over a century old in Italy, mirrors the French Pinot Blanc and shares similarities with Pinot Grigio. Known for its rich character, this grape is prevalent in the cooler northern regions like Alto Adige, where it produces crisp, mineral-driven wines that are both refined and structured, capable of aging gracefully.

Riesling Renano

Riesling Renano, from Trentino Alto-Adige, offers a taste akin to the classic Rhine Rieslings of Germany. This variety is celebrated for its crispness and light body, with characteristic flavors of green apple, peach, and fine mineral notes that make it a favorite among enthusiasts of Italian wines that echo Germanic styles.

Primitivo & Negroamaro

Primitivo and Negroamaro are dynamic reds from southern Italy, known for their light body and sweet, berry-forward profiles, complemented by rustic leather notes. While Primitivo offers vibrant, punchy fruit flavors, Negroamaro brings darker, more intense fruit notes to blends, providing depth and complexity. These varieties are best enjoyed young and are known for their approachability and fruit-driven palate.


Sauvignon Blanc, commonly referred to simply as Sauvignon in Italy, is an aromatic wine noted for its vibrant herbal and grassy notes. Predominantly cultivated in the cooler climates of Northeast Italy, its crisp acidity and refreshing palate have prompted winemakers across other regions to experiment with this variety, aiming to produce wines that appeal to international tastes. This experimentation helps blend traditional Italian wine-making techniques with a modern approach, enhancing the grape's natural characteristics to appeal to a global audience.


Vermentino is a versatile white wine grape that thrives primarily in Tuscany, but also in other parts of Italy like Liguria and Sardinia. This grape produces wines ranging from light and crisp to rich and complex, making it suitable for a wide array of palates. Known for its ability to pair well with the Mediterranean cuisine, Vermentino features bright acidity, and flavors of citrus and green fruits, often with a hint of almond and a saline minerality, reflecting its coastal terroir.

Nero d’Avola

Nero d'Avola is Sicily's most important and widely planted red wine grape, offering wines with deep color, robust tannins, and a bold fruit-forward profile, reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. These wines typically exhibit flavors of black cherry, plum, and spices, with a capability to age well, often maturing between five to seven years. Nero d'Avola is a cornerstone of Sicilian winemaking, embodying the island's rich viticultural heritage and sun-drenched terroir.


Barbera, predominantly from Piedmont, is one of Italy’s most approachable and widely consumed red wines. This variety is cherished for its high acidity, juicy fruit flavors, and an engaging tartness, making it a versatile food pairing wine. Known for flavors of black cherry and spices combined with a unique liquorice note, Barbera wines are best enjoyed young, within a few years of their vintage. Despite being fruit-forward, these wines often feature a rustic edge, characteristic of Piedmontese wines, making them favorites among those who appreciate Italian reds.

Italian Wine Terms

To fully appreciate Italian wines, it's essential to familiarize yourself with common Italian wine terms and classifications that indicate the style and quality of the wine. Here are some key terms and categories you'll encounter:First, there are the basic descriptors:

  • Vino bianco - white wine
  • Vino rosato - rose wine
  • Vino rosso - red wine

You may also notice other markings signifying the level of quality of the wines and their vineyards:

  • DOGC - Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (highest quality Italian wines)
  • DOC - Denominazione di Origine Controllata (a high-quality certification that is less strict than DOGC)
  • IGT - Indicazione Geografica Tipica (quality designation stating the producer has permission to add foreign grapes as well)
  • Classico - Classic (area designation; indicates the wine is from the best part of an appellation)
  • Riserva - Reserve (quality designation signifying the wine is higher quality and has gone through an extensive aging process)

These classifications help guide consumers in choosing a wine that meets their taste preferences and quality expectations, showcasing the rich diversity and prestigious heritage of Italian winemaking.

Famous Italian Wine Regions

  • Italian wines are distinguished not only by their diverse nomenclature but also by the variety of regional grapes that contribute to the rich tapestry of styles and flavors. Most grape varieties are cultivated across various regions, each lending its unique touch to the wines produced. Italy boasts several significant wine regions known for their high-quality offerings. Here are three major regions known for producing exceptional table wines:Piedmont
  • Tuscany
  • Veneto


Piedmont, nestled between France and Switzerland in northwest Italy, is famed for its robust red wines and sophisticated white wines. Key varieties include Moscato d'Asti, known for its sweet, sparkling qualities, and powerful reds like Nebbiolo and Barbaresco. The white wines of Piedmont are often enjoyed with regional delicacies such as truffle dishes or aged cheeses, which perfectly complement the wines' profound flavors and complexities.


  • Nestled around Florence, Tuscany’s rolling hills are dotted with olive trees and expansive vineyards. This region has a rich winemaking history spanning over two millennia and is known for several iconic wines:Chianti Classico - the oldest and most well-known Tuscan wine
  • Vin Santo - a more typical Tuscan dessert wine
  • Brunello di Montalcino - one of the most famous red wine provinces


  • Veneto caters to all budgets, from affordable table wines to high-end bottles, with a significant number of wines sold under DOC and DOCG labels. The region is divided into three winemaking subregions:Merlot
  • Cabernet sauvignon
  • Cabernet franc
  • Pinot noir

The northeast is a more unique and special area of Veneto, producing renowned sparkling prosecco wines. In addition, semi-sparkling wines are abundant here.

Other Special Italian Wine Regions


Sicily's diverse wine regions are often defined by their proximity to mountain ranges, with vineyards stretching across the west, southeast, and northeast of the island. The Etna wine region, in particular, benefits from volcanic soils that impart a unique minerality to its wines. The warm Mediterranean climate enhances the native grape varieties, producing wines with distinctive flavors.


Lombardy is known for its varied wine portfolio, including the lighter and more Pinot Noir-like Chiavennasca (local name for Nebbiolo) and the prestigious Franciacorta, a sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc. The region’s sparkling wines are highly prized for their quality and complexity.


  • Emilia-Romagna is famous for producing both sweet and dry styles of Lambrusco, which offer a refreshing counterpoint to the region’s rich culinary offerings. Wine lovers can also explore the region’s 19 DOCs and 2 DOCG wines, which include varieties like Malvasia, Trebbiano, Barbera, and Sangiovese. This region is not only a hub for diverse wine production but also a cultural treasure, boasting numerous Renaissance monuments and UNESCO heritage sites.Lambrusco
  • Malvasia
  • Trebbiano
  • Barbera
  • Sangiovese

Our Best Italian Wines

Our Italian wine selection includes old, rare, red, white, rose and sparkling Italian wines. You can also read our detailed explanation of our featured Italian wines.

Given the diversity of Italian wine, it's impossible to suggest one bottle, even one from each category. However, our selection is wide enough for you to try several and gain new experiences. At the same time, it's narrow enough due to our special curation process, so you can select from only the best!