How to Order and Enjoy Wine in Italy (A Nonstuffy Tourist’s Guide)

Our Tuscany day trip departing from Florence is a must-see if you are a fan of Italian wines. You will visit two wineries in this best-selling tour to learn how the finest wines of Italy are made. Enjoy a delicious farmhouse lunch, a walk around Siena and unlimited wine tastings!

It is a great pleasure to try the wine of Italy. It’s not just Italy’s national drink; it’s also a passion. More than 1,000,000 wine-growers reside in Italy. And, as you might guess, Italians consume more wine than any other country in the world.

It is a egalitarian activity to drink wine in Italy. It’s not unusual for wine lovers to order bottles of wine in Italy, as almost everyone drinks it. Italy is home to some of the most exquisite wines in the world. This open-minded attitude makes it a great place to sample different varieties, even if your not a wine expert. Wine isn’t all that Italy drinks. Check out our blog to learn how to drink like an Italian for more information.

Here are our top tips to help you get the best out of wine in Italy.

How to decode an Italian wine bottle label

While it can be confusing to see the labels on Italian wine bottles, they are very simple and look much like French labels. The name of the grower is usually found at the top of the label (or in the largest letters). In the example to the right, it’s Giuliano Ruggeri. The grape name and the region are usually next. Here, it is Montefalco. If it is not a blend, then the vintage year will be listed below. Depending on the wine’s vintage, one of the following labels should be included: DOCG, IGT, DOC or VdT.

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Your DOCG will tell you your DOC.

Although it may look like alphabet soup these labels indicate the wine’s classification. The strictest classification in Italy is DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guaranteeita). These wines must be produced in DOCG-protected areas and follow stringent regulations. Brunello di Montalcino, for example, has DOCG protection.

The second-strictest classification is DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). DOC wines must be made in certain areas and adhere to specific regulations, just like DOCG wines. It’s comparable to France’s AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Next is IGT (Indicazione di Geografica Tipica), which can be used to describe any wine made in a specific region. VdT wines (Vino da Tavola) have the most relaxed regulations. These wines must be made in Italy. You can find a similar classification in Italy for food in our blog, which is dedicated to the DOP foods from Italy.

It is a common error to think that strict labels only apply to the best wines. Some of the best wines in Italy are not DOCG or DOC. For example, the “Super Tuscans” are part of the IGT category.

It’s a good idea to learn some Italian vocabulary

Many servers and sommeliers can speak enough English to make it through. A few words of English can help you navigate a wine shop or wine menu. It’s also fun to learn Italian!

What is the most important word? Of course, “Vino” is the most important word! Simply add the adjective after the noun to describe the type of wine you are looking for.

“Vino Rosso” is red wine

“Vino Bianco”: White wine

“Vino rosato”: rose wine

“Vino amabile”: a medium-sweet wine

“Vino dolce”: sweet wine

“Vino secco”: dry wine

“Vino abboccato”: semi-dry wine

Vino corposo: A full-bodied wine

“Vino aromatico”: aromatic wine

“Vino frizzante”: semi-sparkling wine

If you are looking at the label, “azienda”, which means estate, “anno”, is the year and “produttore”, is the producer. The alcohol percentage is called “Gradazione alcolica”, and “imbottigliato alle’origine” means that the wine was bottled by its producer. “Vendemmia” means harvest (i.e. The vintage, and “vitigno”, the “vine”

A little wine etiquette

The etiquette for ordering and drinking wine in Italy is almost identical to elsewhere. The procedure for ordering wine at a restaurant using a wine list will be the same as back home. The server will bring the wine to your table. Unlike in the past, establishments assumed that the man at the top of the table would drink the wine. However, many don’t. Instead, the server will ask “Chi assaggia?” (kee ahss AHG-ah meaning “Who tasted?”) Simply point to the person who will do the tasting. The server will point to the person to taste the wine, then open the bottle and show it to them.

You are not the “taster” – you aren’t really tasting the wine to see if it’s good for you. However, you can make murmurs of “Mmm buono!” if you don’t like it. While “Grazie” is always appreciated, you should not send the wine back if it hasn’t gone “off”.

Remember that wine culture and Italy have glasses filled to the halfway mark or under the brim when pouring wine. You might not get wine glasses in casual restaurants that do not have extensive wine lists. You will be expected to use the same glass to drink water and wine.

Even though there’s not a lot of wine on the menu, there is always house wine.

Some restaurants, such as small, casual trattorias and others, might not offer wine lists. They will still be able to offer the house wine in these instances. House wines are usually cheaper (for both the establishment as well as the consumer) – it’s not unusual to see a liter house wine for around 5 euros. It is often not the most delicious wine you have ever tasted. But, sometimes you can find genuine gems in the rough. It is not uncommon for Italian house wines to be produced locally. They can vary depending on the region, year, weather and even the restaurant. It is magical to find a hole in the wall where the house wine is scrumptious. Although our favorites are kept secret, if you’re looking for your own, don’t be afraid to ask the waiter to bring you some house wine.

Visit an enoteca to sample a range of Italian wines

Italian enoteca offers many options

You can only taste a variety of wines if you go to an enoteca (or wine bar). These establishments have extensive wine lists, which are often separated by region and well-informed servers. Food is not the main event. It’s just a detail that goes with your glass of wine (or two or three). There are some excellent enotecas in Florence. Check out our recommendations for the best wine bars in Florence.

Here are some classic Italian wines you should know

Like Italian food, Italian wines are highly regional. Some wines are more well-known than others and are therefore easier to find outside their home region. While we are currently working on a comprehensive guide to the various Italian wine regions of Italy, these are just a few varieties that you should be familiar with:

Nebbiolo grapes, growing in Barolo, Piedmont

Barolo: This is the most expensive wine made in Italy. DOCG-protected Barolo comes from Piedmont’s northern region and is made from Nebbiolo grape. It is a full-bodied, rich red.

Asti Spumanti is one of the most well-known white wines in Italy. This sparkling wine hails from Piedmont.

Chianti: This red wine is made in Tuscany’s Chianti region. It contains at least 80% Sangiovese grape. Chianti is a wine region that is both high quality and accessible. For more information, see our post The best wine regions in Tuscany.

Brunello di Montalcino – This Montalcino-made DOCG-classified wine is unique in Italy. It is 100% made from Sangiovese grapes.

Super Tuscans: You guessed it! These wines come from Tuscany and are made with grapes that have not been blended according to the regional rules. They can be very different. However, some are the most prized and well-known wines in the region.

Prosecco: This sparkling white wine is made in northern Italy, especially Veneto. It is a popular pre-dinner drink.

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