Italian Wine Guide
Wine is a significant part of the Italian national identity. From the earliest days of the Roman Empire, winemaking has been an integral part of Italian society, culture, and economy – traits that continue to this day.
Italian wine is a vast and complex world, with a seemingly unending number of grape variations, unique wine types and flavour combinations. According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, Italy is the second biggest exporter of wine in the world – shipping over five billion pounds’ worth each year.
Characteristics of Italian Wine
It’s a well-known trope that Italians love food, a quality that has impacted the style of wine that they produce. Italian wines are often high in acidity, as acidic wines are best consumed alongside food. This is also the reason that most Italian wines are medium bodied, and prone to earthy, subdued aromas, so they don’t compete with flavours of a main meal.
Italy is home to a huge range of indigenous grapes, with over 350 estimated varietals across the country. Many Italian grapes have evolved over thousands of years to suit to the region of their invention, making it almost impossible for them to survive in another country. This can make shopping for Italian wine tricky, as there are a seemingly endless number of grape types, wine regions and names, unlike countries who favour more traditional grapes.
Famous Italian Wine Regions
Italy is home to twenty winemaking regions, each with its own distinct personality. The varied soil types, microclimates, geographical locations – as well as the types of grapes cultivated – give Italy a rich and vibrant winemaking landscape.
The passion for grapes is so strong that every region in the country produces wine. Discover more about the most prominent regions below:
Found in Southern Italy, Campania is home to the historical city of Naples, and famed for its rich natural resources and abundant green spaces – not to mention the dormant giant of Mount Vesuvius.
The fertile land and Mediterranean temperatures of the coast mean this area is home to rich soils and volcanic deposits, creating a perfect environment for winemaking. Notable wines from this region including Taurasi, a powerful red that’s rapidly growing in popularity, and Fiano di Avellino, a white made using Fiano – a grape famed for its powerful and intense aroma and flavour.
Franciacorta is Italy's answer to Champagne, producing the finest range of sparkling wines in the country. Wines from this region are commonly made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc grapes.
Sparkling wines in Franciacorta are created using a method similar to the one used to create Champagne, called the metodo classico. This process involves a second fermentation while in the bottle, producing elegant, floral aromas and a lively texture.
The most famous winemaking region in Italy, and perhaps the world, Tuscany is full of variation and character due the microclimates and hilly landscapes of the area. Tuscany also produces perhaps the most highly regarded Italian wines in existence – Chianti.
Chianti is a refined, dry red wine made using Sangiovese grapes – a mainstay of the region. Like most Italian wines, Chianti is exceptional with food, and is characterised by rustic flavours and high tannin content that makes it the perfect complement to red meat.
Found at the base of the alps, Piedmont is acclaimed for producing a high volume of red wines that are packed full of powerful flavour. Wines from this region – such as Barolo and Barbera – respond well to ageing, and are strongly favoured by Italian wine collectors.
Another famous export from this region is Asti, a delicious sparkling wine made using Moscato Bianco grapes. Low in alcohol and characterised by sweetness and hints of peach, Asti is packaged in a similar manner to Champagne and often consumed when celebrating.