Italian proverb: “A meal without wine, is like a day without sunlight.”
Wine in Italy has a long history. Wine is a popular choice for social gatherings and family gatherings. It is also a common topic in almost all wine-based proverbs in Italian, and other dialects. This robust wine culture poses a problem for tourists to Italy. It is difficult to find the best Italian wines.
Here’s where we come in. It is important to enjoy the best Italian wines, or any other good wines, not only to drink them but also to understand the people and places that created them. You will have a better experience whether you’re booking a trip to the peninsula or browsing the selection at your enoteca (the Italian word for “wine shop”), the more you understand Italian wines. We have created a series guides to help you enjoy the best wines from the different regions of Italy. Here you’ll find tips and tricks about what to drink in each region, as well as information on how to get these delicious tipples and the rich culture that surrounds them.
Let’s start with a breakdown by numbers of Italian wine:
- 48.9 Million: Hectoliters, harvested 2015. This is the highest country in the world.
- 20: regions. Each region has its own character and unique flavors.
- 361 native grape varietals cataloged by Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. This is not counting all of their clones and their close relatives (Attilio Scenza, a well-respected professor of Enology in Milan claims that there are more than 800).
- 329DOC is an abbreviation for Origine Controllata or “Controlled Designation of Origin”), which refers to the regions of Italy. This classification system, which was inspired by the French AOC, was implemented in 1963 in order to guarantee quality control when making traditional Italian wines.
- 74 is DOCG or Denominazione Origine Controllata e Garantita and the highest Italian wine classifications, regions of Italy. The most regions are Piedmont, Veneto, and Tuscany.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Our secret is that it’s easy to get lost in the vast array of Italian wines. You can break it down into regions, then visit a specific region to taste its wines. In addition to a bit of wine tasting, “experiencing” wine also means getting in touch with the culture, history, and people behind every drop. You can visit the wineries and taste the local cuisine, or even participate in a harvest. Brunello di Montalcino is delicious no matter where it’s served, but sipping a glass of Brunello di Montalcino in Montalcino on sunny spring afternoons surrounded by medieval architecture, the Tuscan countryside and beautiful scenery is something you won’t forget. For such unforgettable experiences, wineries are the best, but restaurants, hotels and wine bars can also offer some of Italy’s finest wines. You only need to reserve half a day, a bicchiere empty and you will be able to experience the true culture of wine italiano.
The best places to begin in Italy are those that surround the most popular cities. You can enjoy the best wines from their wider regions as well as seeing the history and art of cities such Rome, Venice and Florence.
Rome is a must-see for all visitors to Italy, whether they are first-timers or seasoned travelers. It may be surprising that wines from Lazio, the region around Rome, are not among the top wines in Italy, despite their reputation for outstanding food, architecture, and art. In reality, the Eternal City’s production has been poor at best. Lazio wines have gained a loyal following over the past twenty years, largely due to improvements in winemaking techniques.
The area’s bottles showcase outstanding expressions of both indigenous and international varietals such as Semillion or Cabernet Sauvignon. Visitors to the city can enjoy the latter with a winery tour, tasting and dinner at Fattoria di Fiorano, a famous winery that was once owned by a Prince. It is located just 20 minutes south-east of Rome. If you can’t make it to the center of Rome, Al Grammelot enoteca is a great option. Teodoro Capone has curated a wine list that includes both native varietals from the Lazio region and Italy in general.
While it is not illegal to visit Venice and not taste the local ombra (the Venetian term for wine), it should be. It is home to some of the most highly regarded wines in Italy, the Veneto region. It’s no surprise, given its home to Prosecco (and Amarone) greats. While dedicated oneophiles have the option to explore the Veneto region for the finest tipples, first-time visitors can enjoy some of the best without leaving Venice’s magical surroundings. Hotel Danieli’s Wine Suite is where you can have a guided tasting with the sommeliers. This is perhaps the best Venetian wine experience.
There are many options for tourists who wish to explore the beautiful Venetian countryside. Castello di Roncade is a 16-century castle that will delight lovers of Italian bubbly. They also offer round-trip transfers from Venice for an additional charge. Wine lovers might want to make the pilgrimage from Verona to see Villa della Torre where the famous Allegrini family created the world-famous Amarone. It is a Renaissance villa from 16th century where Venetian doges used to party. The estate has been renovated to allow guests to stay overnight. You can also enjoy wine tastings and delicious local food at the estate.
If you’re looking for Venetian wine tasting with an expert guide, check out our Venice Food and Wine Tour! You can also find historical and cultural tours in Venice and Verona on the Venice Page.
Tuscany is synonymous for Italian wine culture. There are many opportunities to find the best local wines, paired with beautiful scenery and delicious food in this region. The Antinori family is perhaps the most well-known name in Tuscany. They have been making wine for over 600 years, and their award-winning wines were the first to attract international collectors’ attention in the second half of 20th century. Antinori’s origins lie in Chianti Classico. The hospitality centre in the heart Tuscany’s region is a must-see for all Tuscan wine lovers. It is a masterpiece of architecture and a museum that reflects the history of the family and region. This is the best way to immerse oneself in the culture and wines of Tuscany. You can choose from a variety of guided tours before you head up to Rinuncio 1180 for a traditional Tuscan lunch.
Montalcino is the heart of Brunello di Montalcino’s fine wines. It is a must-see for anyone visiting the Siena area. Although the town is perched high on a hill with a seemingly endless number of wine shops and a medieval fortress, it’s worth a visit. But, it’s the wineries nearby, like San Polo that will make a lasting impression on anyone who visits their grounds. San Polo offers customized, private visits that end with a meal overlooking the stunning Sienese hills.
Our Pictorial Guide To Siena has more information about what you can do in Siena.
In addition to the two main winemaking areas of Chianti and Montalcino, Cortona/Montepulciano and Bolgheri offer stellar wines and experiences. Avignonesi, a stunning property located near Cortona, produces exceptional biodynamic wines. They also offer tours and delicious meals at their restaurant. It is not uncommon to find blends of international varieties in Tuscany’s coastal wineries, such as Tenuta San Guido or Guado al Tasso. These wines have been compared to the finest Bordeaux wines. These wineries can be visited by visitors. Other wineries, such as Tringali–Casanuova offer overnight accommodations for the complete Tuscan Agriturismo experience.