Italian Wine Types List

Italian Wine Types – A Practical Guide to Italy’s Reds, Whites and Sparkling Wines

Below, I’ll share a diverse, yet practically put list of Italian wine types, including each region’s signature wines.

I will also tell you about:

TIP: click on any link above to jump right to the relevant section.
In a hurry? I prepared a table of selected Italian wines with some essential info on each:

The List of Italian Wines To Know

Italian WineCharacteristicsGrape VarietiesFavorite Pairings
BaroloRobust, complex flavors of tar, roses, and dark fruitsNebbioloGrilled meats, truffle dishes
Pinot GrigioCrisp, refreshing with citrus and melon notesPinot GrigioSeafood, light salads
Amarone della ValpolicellaOpulent, rich, dark fruits, chocolate, and spicesCorvina, Corvinone, RondinellaAged cheeses, hearty meats
ProseccoLight, effervescent, fruityGleraAppetizers, seafood, brunch
Chianti ClassicoMedium-bodied, cherry, herbs, earthy notesSangioveseTomato-based pasta, grilled meats
SoaveElegant, with flavors of melon, peach, and herbsGarganegaLight seafood, salads
Brunello di MontalcinoFull-bodied, rich cherry, leather, and tobaccoSangioveseOsso buco, aged cheeses
Moscato d’AstiSweet, floral, and lightMoscato BiancoFruit desserts, pastries
BarbarescoElegant, with rose and violet aromasNebbioloRoast duck, truffle dishes
Vernaccia di San GimignanoCrisp, citrusy, and minerallyVernacciaShellfish, light pasta
Nero d’AvolaRich, dark berries, and spicesNero d’AvolaGrilled meats, pasta with tomato sauce
GaviCrisp, citrus, and almond notesCorteseSeafood, pesto dishes
Nebbiolo d’AlbaLighter than Barolo, with red fruit and floral notesNebbioloRoast chicken, mushroom risotto
VerdicchioCitrusy, herbal, and almond nuancesVerdicchioLight fish dishes, salads
Aglianico del VultureFull-bodied, with dark fruit and savory notesAglianicoGrilled lamb, aged cheeses
ValpolicellaCherry, red berries, and a hint of spiceCorvina, Rondinella, MolinaraLight pasta, roasted chicken
OrvietoCrisp, floral, and fruityTrebbiano, GrechettoSeafood pasta, salads
Sagrantino di MontefalcoIntense, tannic, with black fruit and earthy notesSagrantinoRich meat dishes, aged cheeses
VermentinoFresh, citrusy, and herbalVermentinoGrilled seafood, Mediterranean dishes
Montepulciano d’AbruzzoFull-bodied, dark fruit, and spicy notesMontepulcianoBolognese sauce, grilled sausages
Greco di TufoMinerally, with citrus and almond undertonesGrecoShellfish, light pasta
Cannonau di SardegnaFull-bodied, rich, with red fruit and spicy notesCannonauRoasted meats, hearty stews
FrascatiCrisp, floral, and apple notesMalvasia, TrebbianoLight appetizers, seafood dishes
LambruscoSemi-sparkling, fruity, and slightly sweetLambrusco varietiesCharcuterie, pizza, pasta
FalanghinaCrisp, with tropical fruit and floral aromasFalanghinaGrilled seafood, light salads
GrechettoFull-bodied, with peach, pear, and almond notesGrechettoCreamy pasta dishes, poultry
Teroldego RotalianoMedium-bodied, with black fruit and spicy undertonesTeroldegoGrilled meats, hard cheeses
A selected list of Italian wines with favorite pairings

Key Takeaways

  • Italy’s rich tapestry of wines reflects its geographical diversity, with each region offering unique wines like Piedmont’s Barolo, the crisp Pinot Grigio from the north, and Tuscany’s famed Chianti.
  • The Italian wine classification system (DOCG, DOC, and IGT) signals the quality and authenticity of wines, rooted in regional traditions.
  • Pairing Italian wines with meals, such as Chianti with tomato-based dishes or Pinot Grigio with seafood, elevates the culinary experience.
  • Appreciating Italian wines involves understanding terroir—the distinct interplay of soil, climate, and landscape shapes each wine’s character.

First, the Grapes

Marche wine region

Italian wines come in quite an array, from sparkling to red and white types, spanning numerous Italian wine regions.

The primary grape varieties utilized in Italian wines include:

  • Lambrusco
  • Trebbiano
  • Chardonnay
  • Nebbiolo
  • Pinot Nero
  • Primitivo
  • Negroamaro
  • Montepulciano
  • Sangiovese

Some wines may use the same grape variety but have different characteristics due to terroir and winemaking techniques.

For a comprehensive list, check out our article covering Italian grape varieties.

Some extra tidbits:

  • The Merano Wine Festival and the Decanter World Wine Awards are considered the most significant Italian wine competitions, showcasing the quality and diversity of Italy’s finest wines.
  • Independent Wine, a wine seller, stocks the UK’s grandest collection of Decanter award-winning Italian wine, while the Registro Nazionale delle Varietà di Vite is the registry of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies (MiPAAF) established by the Italian government.

Types of Italian Wines

Sparkling Wines: Prosecco and Beyond

Italian sparkling wine types
Beautiful colors, delicate bubbles…must be delicious!

Italy’s top sparkling wines feature the following:

  • Prosecco: an affordable and popular sparkling wine mainly composed of the Glera grape and produced using the Charmat method. It has a fresh, lightly floral character with peaches, pear, honeysuckle, and melon notes.
  • Franciacorta: a refined sparkling wine made from various grapes, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle and has a complex flavor profile with hints of citrus, apple, and bread crust.
  • Asti Spumante: a sweet sparkling wine made from the Moscato Bianco grape. It is known for its fruity and floral aromas, with peach, apricot, and honey flavors.
  • Lambrusco: A lightly sparkling red wine from Emilia-Romagna, ranging from sweet to dry.

These are pretty much the big kahunas of Italian sparkling wines. They showcase diversity and quality.

Franciacorta has a bit more; besides being a type of sparkling wine, it’s produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc grapes in the Lombardy region. It is also known for its sophisticated and elegant profile. It often displays notes of:

  • light citrus
  • toasted nuts
  • brioche
  • dried fruit

These aromas come from the lees and bottle aging process. Prosecco and Franciacorta are excellent accompaniments for various meals and celebrations. I’ll let you in on some accompaniments later on. Let’s keep going!

Italian Red Wine Types

Italy’s renowned red wine types include:

  • Barolo: known as the “King of Wines,” made from the Nebbiolo grape and boasts a complex flavor profile described by some as “tar and roses,” with dried black fruits, spices, and aromas of sweet tobacco, leather, and chocolate.
  • Chianti: a traditional red wine with a medium body and flavors of cherries, herbs, and earthy notes.
  • Amarone della Valpolicella: an opulent wine made from dried grapes with rich flavors of dark fruits, chocolate, and spices.
  • Brunello di Montalcino: A high-quality, intensely flavored wine from Tuscany, made exclusively from Sangiovese.
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: A deep-colored, approachable wine from Abruzzo.
  • Nero d’Avola: A bold, fruity wine from Sicily.

Each wine possesses a unique flavor profile and regional origin.

My favorite from the list above is the iconic Italian red, Amarone della Valpolicella, crafted from a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes. It features bold aromas of:

  • black cherry
  • plum
  • wild berries
  • carob
  • cinnamon
  • dark chocolate

Interestingly, some older Amarone della Valpolicella wines tend to display brown sugar and fig notes. Give it a try!

-Luca
My beloved Amazon della Valpolicella Classico 2018
My beloved Amazon della Valpolicella Classico 2018

Of course, this list only scratches the surface of Italy’s vast wine landscape, showcasing the country’s rich viticultural diversity.

That said, these Italian reds above are the most famous wines, and they all offer a delightful sensory experience and pair beautifully with a wide range of dishes.

Italian White Wine Types

The best-known Italian white wines are:

  • Pinot Grigio: a popular, light-bodied wine, with the best expressions from the Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto regions.
  • Soave: a dry, crisp wine from Veneto, made primarily from the Garganega grape.
  • Verdicchio: a mineral-driven, citrusy wine from the Marche region.
  • Falanghina: a vibrant and aromatic wine from Campania.
  • Fiano di Avellino: a full-bodied, complex white from Campania.

My favorite ones are the two first on the list, and here are a few shots of my recent bottles:

Pinot Grigio is a famous white wine known for being delicate and refreshing. It has fruity grapefruit, lime, melon, apple, and pear aromas.

On the other hand, Soave wines are crafted from native grapes in the Soave region of Northern Italy and are renowned for their elegance. These wines exhibit flavors of:

  • melon
  • orange zest
  • peach
  • honeydew melon with subtle hints of fresh herbs.

Both Pinot Grigio and Soave are versatile white wines that effortlessly complement a variety of dishes, from seafood to salads and light pasta. I love them both 🙂

Italian Reds – Regional Examples

Every Italian wine region takes pride in its hallmark red wines, which mirror the area’s unique terroir and winemaking customs.

The unique microclimates and terroirs of Italian wine regions contribute to the distinct characteristics of these signature wines.

Here are selected examples from three regions with a rich history of winemaking traditions.

Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbera Wines

Barolo and Barbera wines are the pride of the Piedmont region, each with unique characteristics and flavor profiles.

  • Barolo, made from the Nebbiolo grape, is known for its complex flavors, which include notes of dried black fruits, spices, sweet tobacco, leather, and chocolate.
  • Barbera, on the other hand, is noted for its high acidity and low tannin content. Its flavor profile typically consists of wild cherries, raspberries, and blueberries, accompanied by warming vanilla and spice from oak aging.

Both wines showcase the diverse terroir and winemaking techniques of the Piedmont region. The clay and limestone-rich soils, combined with the region’s unique microclimate, contribute to the distinct characteristics of these wines. For example, Barolo wines require a minimum of 3 years of aging, with 18 months in oak or chestnut barrels.

These aging requirements and the region’s unique terroir result in the highly regarded and sought-after Barolo and Barbera wines.

Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscan Wines

Tuscany’s Treasures encompass the prestigious wines from the region of Tuscany; they include Brunello di Montalcino, Super Tuscan wines, and those made from the Montepulciano grape.

  • Brunello di Montalcino is a robust and full-bodied wine from the Sangiovese grape. Its flavor profile includes wild strawberry, espresso, and violet flowers.
  • Super Tuscan wines, on the other hand, are designated as IGT and are often crafted from a blend of Sangiovese with other international grape varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Like in Piedmont, Tuscany’s warm climate and diverse soils provide the perfect environment for producing these rich and full-bodied wines. Combining terroir and winemaking techniques results in the distinctive flavor profiles and esteemed reputation of Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscan wines.

These wines showcase the unique characteristics of the Tuscany region and highlight the creativity and innovation of Italian winemakers.

Veneto’s Valpolicella Wine and Its Kin

Like its relatives Amarone and Ripasso, Valpolicella wine hails from the Veneto region. It offers a diverse range of flavors and intensity levels.

Valpolicella wines are produced through traditional winemaking, using a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. The fermentation and aging process, which may occur in stainless steel or oak barrels, contributes to the wine’s unique characteristics.

The Veneto region’s terroir and winemaking traditions are showcased in the distinctive flavors of Valpolicella wines.

Amarone della Valpolicella, for example, is a bold and luxurious wine with aromas of black cherry, plum, wild berries, carob, cinnamon, and dark chocolate.

These wines offer a delightful sensory experience and pair beautifully with many dishes, from hearty meat dishes to rich cheeses.

Read more:
Wines of Veneto and All The Region Has To Offer

Italian Whites Worth the Whirl

Italian white wines offer styles to satisfy any palate, from the crisp Pinot Grigio of the north to the robust Fiano di Avellino of the south. The diverse terroirs and microclimates of Italy’s wine regions contribute to these white wines’ distinct characteristics.

From the cool climate and alpine lakes of Northern Italy (such as Garda) to the warm coastal breezes and volcanic soils of Southern Italy, the unique geographical features of Italy’s wine regions play a significant role in its white wines’ quality and flavor profiles.

Northern Italy’s Cool Whites: Pinot Grigio and Soave

Northern Italy’s cool climate, particularly in regions like Friuli and Trentino, is ideal for producing crisp, vibrant white wines such as Pinot Grigio and Soave.

Pinot Grigio features fruity aromas of lime, lemon, pear, white nectarine, and apple, making it a refreshing and versatile wine. Soave wines, crafted from native grapes in the Soave region, display melon, orange zest, peach, and honeydew melon flavors with subtle hints of fresh herbs.

The unique microclimate, with cool temperatures and ample sunlight, contributes to these wines’ remarkable balance and refreshing acidity.

The vicinity of Slovenia in the northeastern region of Italy also allows for cross-cultural influences and the exchange of winemaking techniques, further enhancing the quality of these cool whites.

Northern Italy’s Fiano di Avellino and Other Stars

Fiano di Avellino and other southern Italian white wines, such as Greco di Tufo and Falanghina, showcase the rich and aromatic characteristics of the region’s terroir.

Fiano di Avellino, a high-quality Italian white wine, is characterized by a straw yellow hue and lush notes of quince, orange blossom, spice, and hazelnuts, with further aging developing honeyed mineral notes and more complexity.

The coastal breezes and volcanic soils of Southern Italy contribute to the distinct flavor profiles of these white wines, including the refreshing sauvignon blanc.

With its noteworthy acidity and minerality, Fiano di Avellino is an excellent choice for pairing with fish and seafood dishes.

An interesting interview, explaining what makes Norther Italy’s wines unique.

Italy’s Dessert and Fortified Wines

Italy is famed for its delicious dessert and fortified wines, including Passito, Vin Santo, and sweet Sicilian wines such as Marsala.

Passito and Vin Santo wines are made from dried grapes, with the fermentation process for Vin Santo being terminated before all the sugars have fermented, producing a sweeter wine. These luxurious dessert wines offer a rich and indulgent sensory experience.

Sicilian sweet wines, including Nero d’Avola and Moscato d’Asti, showcase the region’s diverse range of flavors and styles.

Nero d’Avola wines are known for their rich character and versatility, featuring aromas of wild strawberry, sour cherry, and red plum, while Moscato d’Asti is renowned for its sweet taste, low alcohol content, light carbonation, musky aroma, and gentle acidic tang.

These sweet and fortified wines are perfect for pairing with desserts and cheeses, providing a delightful conclusion to any meal.

Passito and Vin Santo: Italy’s Liquid Gold

Passito and Vin Santo are Italy’s luxurious dessert wines, crafted from dried grapes and offering a rich and indulgent experience. Passito wines, made using the passito method of drying grapes, are generally characterized by nuts, raisins, honey, and cream flavors.

On the other hand, Vin Santo is produced by fermenting dried grapes with a yeast culture and aging the wine in small oak casks for up to ten years before bottling.

Both Passito and Vin Santo wines showcase Italy’s unique winemaking techniques and terroirs. The sandy and volcanic soil, along with the southwest exposure and old vineyards, are key contributors to these wines’ distinctive characteristics.

Whether you prefer the nutty and raisin-infused flavors of Passito or the honeyed caramel notes of Vin Santo, these liquid gold wines are sure to delight the senses.

RELATED: Find out more about Vin Santo in our posts:
All About Italian Digestif Drinks – Your After-Dinner Experience
17 Famous Italian Liqueurs: A Taste of Italy’s Finest Spirits

Vin santo liqueur
Vin santo liqueur.

Understanding Italian Wine Labels

While Italian wine labels may seem perplexing to beginners, they carry abundant information about the wine’s quality, origin, and traits.

The most significant classifications on Italian wine labels are DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), and IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica).

Understanding the differences between these classifications can help you make informed decisions when selecting Italian wines. The classifications are as follows:

  1. DOCG wines: These are of the highest quality.
  2. DOC wines: These are of slightly lower quality than DOCG wines.
  3. IGT wines: These are, in theory, of lower quality than DOC and DOCG wines, but some IGT wines can still be remarkably valuable (so don’t let this gradation fool you). For example, Super Tuscans are often IGT wines.

By learning to decipher Italian wine labels, you can gain valuable insights into the wine’s taste, quality, and origin, helping you to choose the perfect bottle for any occasion.

The Hierarchy: From Vino da Tavola to DOCG

The various levels of Italian wine classification are:

  1. Vino da Tavola (VdT): Defined as table wine, which is the lowest quality wine category in Italy. It has no geographical indication and can be produced from grapes grown in any region of Italy.
  2. Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): Indicates a wine with a specific geographical origin and certain quality characteristics, but with less strict regulations than DOC or DOCG wines.
  3. Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC): This designation indicates a wine with a specific geographical origin and strict regulations regarding grape varieties, production methods, and aging requirements.
  4. Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG): The highest level of Italian wine classification, indicating a wine with a specific geographical origin and even stricter regulations than DOC wines. DOCG wines undergo rigorous testing and must meet specific quality standards.

IGT wines, a tier higher than Vino da Tavola, are produced in a designated geographical area but do not meet the stringent regulations required for DOC or DOCG wines.

DOC wines, on the other hand, must adhere to specific criteria, including:

  • Geographical boundaries
  • Grape varieties
  • Maximum yields per hectare
  • Minimum alcohol content
  • Aging requirements
  • Production methods

By understanding these classifications, you can better appreciate the quality and characteristics of the Italian wines you enjoy.

Label Legends: What Vintage and Producer Tell You

Vintage on Italian wine labels indicates the year in which the grapes used to craft the wine were harvested. The particular growing season may differ from one year to the next, influencing the attributes and quality of the wine.

In my view, the vintage year is of utmost importance for Italian wines, as the weather conditions during that particular year can greatly impact the quality and taste of the wine.

-Luca

The producer information on Italian wine labels can provide valuable insights into the reputation and winemaking techniques of the winery. Italy’s winemaking heritage, diverse regions, commitment to quality, and international recognition are all factors that contribute to the higher reputation of certain Italian wine producers.

By understanding the significance of vintage and producer information on Italian wine labels, you can better appreciate the craftsmanship and quality behind each bottle.

Food and Italian Wine Combinations

Learning to pair Italian wines with food is a delightful endeavor that reveals harmonious and balanced flavor profiles.

The acidity of the wine can enhance the flavors of the food, while also minimizing certain flavors. Italian cuisine, with its diverse array of herbs, spices, and sauces, pairs beautifully with the smooth, full-bodied characteristics of Italian wines.

From red wine accompaniments like balsamic vinegar and dark chocolate, to white wine delights featuring seafood and citrus notes, there is an Italian food and wine combination to suit every taste and occasion.

By understanding the principles of pairing Italian wines with food, you can create memorable dining experiences that showcases the best of Italy’s culinary and winemaking traditions.

Red Wine Pairings: From Balsamic Vinegar to Dark Chocolate

Italian red wines, like the following, showcase the diverse flavors and characteristics of Italian red wine:

  • Chianti
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Barolo
  • Brunello di Montalcino
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir

Perfectly complement a range of Italian dishes from rich meats to flavorful cheeses. The aggressive, fruity acidity of the wine serves to temper the sweetness of balsamic vinegar, resulting in a harmonious combination of flavors often used in dressings, sauces, and marinades.

Italian red wines that pair well with dark chocolate typically have flavor profiles that complement the richness and bitterness of the chocolate, such as cherry, orange, raspberry, tobacco, and chocolate undertones.

Examples of Italian red wines that pair well with dark chocolate are Brachetto, Amarone, Vino Nobile Montepulciano, and Vin Santo del Chianti.

Chianti Superiore Pogglio Al Casone
Chianti Superiore Pogglio Al Casone – pairs well with rich meats and cheeses.

White Wine Wonders: Seafood and Citrus Notes

Italian white wines like:

  • Albariño
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Prosecco
  • Chardonnay

…pair excellently with seafood and citrus flavors. The Terre Valse Cococciola from Abruzzo, for instance, is a particular variety of Italian white wine well-suited for seafood. Crisp and zesty flavors of lemon, lime, and melon found in Italian white wines like Pinot Grigio can accentuate the refreshing and delicate flavors of seafood dishes.

Citrus notes, such as lemon, orange, and lemongrass, can also complement the vibrant and zesty characteristics of Italian white wines, adding a burst of flavor and acidity to the dining experience.

By exploring different seafood and citrus pairings with Italian white wines, you can create delightful and well-balanced meals that showcase the best of Italy’s culinary and winemaking traditions.

Summary

That’s all I gathered of the list of Italian wine types. I have explored the diverse spectrum of sparkling, red, and white varieties, delved into regional specialties, and discovered the perfect food pairings for these exquisite wines.

With its rich winemaking heritage, unique terroirs, and commitment to quality, Italy offers an unparalleled wine experience that is sure to delight the senses and create unforgettable memories.

Luca
Luca

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