Learn the basics of Italian wine enjoyment, that will help you bring a taste of Italy into your home.
Italy is a nation so full of culture, beauty, and intrigue that it simply cannot be ignored, and the same goes for Italian wine.
Italy has a rich winemaking history spanning thousands of years and remains a significant influence in the modern wine world. Home to many hundreds of grape varieties that range from fresh sparkling wines to full-bodied reds, Italy produces vino for every palate. Join us as we delve a little deeper into the details of Italian wine and explore some of the grape varieties, ways Italians enjoy their wine, and food pairings that will allow you to bring the likes of Sicily, Piedmont, Veneto, Puglia, and Tuscany into your home.
Produced more prolifically than any other wine grape in Italy, Sangiovese is arguably the country's defining grape. This grape is the backbone of many famous Italian wines, such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Sangiovese wines are often dry and medium-bodied, with high acidity, bright cherry and strawberry flavors, and earthy undertones.
The jewel in the crown of Italy's famous Piedmont region, Nebbiolo is known for producing some of Italy's most iconic wines, such as Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo wines are known for their high tannins, high acidity, and complex flavors of tar, roses, and red fruit. The high acidity gives Nebbiolo wines a considerable aging potential (decades in some cases!), making for wines with considerable complexity and quality.
Montepulciano is the second most-planted grape variety in Italy, being grown across the country but primarily in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. Wines made from this grape are typically dry, with medium to high acidity, soft tannins, and exhibit rich, fruity flavors of cherry, blackberry, and plum.
Nebbiolo may be the most revered grape in Piedmont, but Barbera is the most prolific. Barbera typically produces fruity, acidic wines with low tannins that are perfect for everyday drinking. Flavors often expressed by Barbera wines include red fruits, such as cherry, raspberry, and strawberry, as well as hints of spice.
While Pinot Grigio is undeniably a global grape, it is primarily grown in northern Italy. This white wine grape is known for producing crisp, refreshing wines with flavors of green apple, lemon, and lime. Its freshness and acidity make Pinot Grigio a firm favorite during the summer months in particular!
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, so there is a multitude of fantastic Italian grape varieties that we haven't listed here. But we hope this list helps you to get the ball rolling with your Italian wine adventure!
Wine is an integral part of Italian lifestyle and culture. Many Italians enjoy it daily, whether it's a glass of red wine with dinner or a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate a special occasion. Friends and family will also often come together to share a bottle of wine alongside good conversation.
When it comes to sipping wine with their food, Italians enjoy wine in three different ways that depend on the stage of the meal: as an aperitivo, with the main course, or as a digestivo.
Nebbiolo and meatballs
Nebbiolo wines love pairing with rich, meaty dishes, so what better choice than some classic Italian meatballs with spaghetti and a rich tomato sauce? Nebbiolo's full body, high tannins, and high acidity complement the richness of meatballs while cutting through the sweetness of the sauce.
Sangiovese and mushroom risotto
Red wines may often be enjoyed with rich, meaty dishes, but that doesn't always have to be the case. Light or medium-bodied reds in particular, like Sangiovese, work well in tandem with richer vegetables such as mushrooms, so a plant-based dish like mushroom risotto can be the perfect accompaniment to your Sangiovese. Sangiovese wines' high acidity and moderate tannins complement the earthy flavor of the mushrooms in the risotto, while the tannins can also help balance the creaminess of the dish.
Pinot Grigio and Linguine alle Vongole
This pairing is another example of white wine and seafood being a match made in heaven. The subtle fruit flavors of Pinot Grigio complement the delicate flavor of clams in Linguine alle Vongole, while the wine's acidity cuts through the dish's rich white wine, garlic, and olive oil-based sauce.
Barbera and pizza
No Italian food and wine pairing list is complete without mentioning pizza. Barbera's easy-to-drink nature makes it a versatile wine that can complement a variety of pizza toppings, be it pepperoni, vegetables, or a quattro formaggi for the cheese lovers among you.
With this information, we hope you feel well-equipped to pick out an Italian wine that fits your taste preferences and that you can enjoy at a time of day that suits you, alongside some food that your wine pairs deliciously with.