With over 800 grape varieties and hundreds of years of winemaking history, it can be frustrating to know where to begin when it comes to Italian wine. That’s why we put together this quick guide to get you started in the amazing world of Italian wines.
Italian Wine Terms
- DOCG: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the top classification for Italian wines.
- DOC: Denominazione di Origine Controllata, one step below DOCG.
- IGT: Indicazione Geografica Tipica denotes the use grapes and craft styles not allowed under DOC and DOCG regulations.
- Riserva: A wine aged for longer than usual.
- Superiore: A higher-quality designation usually used along with a regional name.
- Classico: A wine from a zone within a region considered the original area of production.
- Azienda Agricola: A farm or estate that produces its own grapes for the production of its wines.
- Annata or Vendemmia: A specific harvest or vintage.
- Produttore: Producer
- Tenuta: Estate
- Vigneto: Vineyard
Italian Wine Regions
Piedmont: Known for the big, sturdy wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, Piedmont sits at the foot of the western Alps in northwest Italy. Here the chilly mountain air meets the balmy Mediterranean, creating the perfect growing conditions for Nebbiolo, the black grape that goes into the region’s most famous wines.
Tuscany: When most people think of Italian wine, they think of Tuscany: rolling hillsides, medieval castles, and endless vineyards. Tuscany’s most famous wines like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino are made with the Sangiovese grape.
Lazio: Home to the capital city of Rome, Lazio has a reputation for easy-drinking, youthful whites. While great wine is made here, the top exports are dry and crisp styles from Frascati DOC and Orvieto DOC.
Umbria: This small region in central Italy is just east of Tuscany. Fringed by the snow-capped Apennines, Umbria produces tannic, ageworthy, reds from Sagrantino de Montefalco DOCG. The companion white, Grechetto, is dry, crisp and ready to be enjoyed while young.
Italian Wine and Food Pairing
What to eat with Italian wine? Italian food, of course. Try Chianti with everything from spaghetti and meatballs to BBQ. Go with Barolo or Barbaresco for steak or other heavy red meat.