Choosing the Best Italian Wines
Italy has some of the best Italian wines we’ve tasted. Italy does not export its finest wines so be sure to try some of the local wines when in Italy. Take note of the certification and wine quality when trying a local wine. We often drink the wines that come highly recommended or are truly unique to the region or restaurant. Most restaurants serve a delicious house wine, which is a basic table wine, at very affordable prices. Visit a local enoteca (an Italian wine bar) or schedule a tasting at a local winery to taste the best Italian wines in Italy.
Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine and virtually every region of Italy produces a local wine so you will undoubtedly find a wine you truly love.
Italian Wine Classifications (a certification of quality)
The certification signifies wine quality. In most cases, the table wines (VdT) are fine – we have had some surprisingly good ones. They are about the same quality as a typical happy hour wine at your favorite restaurant. We have enjoyed wines with all of the designations, and have found some of the best wines in each of the categories. For example, the Primitivo, from Puglia, is an excellent and affordable regional wine. Brunello di Montalcino has a DOCG designation and while it is a great wine, we prefer the spice and flavor of the Primitivo wines.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita
(Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin)
Italy’s top quality wines
There are 74 wine varietals in this category.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata. An everyday Italian wine
(Denomination of Controlled Origin)
Traditional Italian wines
There are 330 wine varietals in this category.
Indicazione di Geografica Tipica
(Typical Geographic Indication)
Regional Italian wines
Super Tuscans fall into this category.
Vino da Tavola
Basic Italian table wine
Wine blended from multiple regions or grapes.
Best Wines We've Tasted
We tend to favor the big, bold, dry rosso (red) Italian wines. Wines with lots of tannin and a fruit-forward taste. The nose for wines we most like is noticeable and delightful. Here are some of the best Italian wines we’ve tasted.
Amarone della Valpolicella (Veneto)
An intensely flavored dry red wine made from dried (passito) grapes. It is made in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, and is one of the region’s most prestigious red wines.
A varietal wine produced mainly in the Piedmont region. Dry, light- or medium-bodied, with intense berry flavor, mouth-watering acidity, and little tannin. Particularly versatile with food. Many of the best wines are from the Alba or Asti zones.
Carpineto Dogajolo Toscano (Tuscany)
A blend of Sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon. A “young” Super Tuscan. A dark-berry, or violet, with hints of vanilla and spice. The palate is complex, but has a easy, fine finish. Pairs well with roasts, or any flavorful dishes.
Known for its earthy, tannic red wines. Casavecchia wines tend to be highly tannic, medium-bodied. Exhibits aromas of dried herbs, black fruits, baker’s chocolate and leather, with vegetal overtones.
Chianti Classico (Tuscany)
Chianti is very dry, medium-bodied, moderately tannic wine with lovely tart-cherry flavor, mainly from Sangiovese grapes grown in the Chianti area of Tuscany. “Chianti Classico” is often the best.
Dolcetto produces soft-styled, fruity wines with colors varying from deep ruby to purple. They are characterized particularly by their low acidity, which is the source of the variety’s name; Dolcetto means “little sweet one.”
A rare, fruity wine from Sicily, Frappato bursts with aromas of sweet red berries and incense spice.
The Magliocco canino grape gives a very elegant and fine wine. The wine exhibits a ruby red-color, with aromas of dried fruits, harmonious and smooth taste, with low acidity and a good aging.
Maria Costanza 1998 Rosso (Sicily)
A rich, intense, bold red wine. Filled with ripe, rich fruit and a plethora of spices. A delightful nose.
Montepulciano (Abruzzo & Molise)
A rustic wine that exhibits strong aromas and flavors. Probably the most noticeable flavors found in this vivid red are that of herbs such as oregano and pepper and black fruits like plums, boysenberries, and sour cherries. Montepulciano is a medium-bodied wine that has a fairly high amount of acidity.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Aburzzo region)
Generally medium-bodied and flavorful with red fruits and a slightly vegetal note. Lighter examples are smooth and easy to drink; the best wines are concentrated and denser in texture. From the Montepulciano grape, in the Abruzzo region.
Nebbiolo (Piedmont region)
Plum, pie cherry, tar flavors. The principal grape of Barolo — in addition to Barbaresco, and Gattinara (all made in the Piedmont region of Italy) — Nebbiolo unquestionably belongs with the great red wines of the world. Has proven almost impossible to grow anywhere else.
Negroamaro (Puglia region)
Negroamaro is known for its deep color, medium-full tannins, and dark berry flavors. The variety can also add earthen tones that can cross over into slightly medicinal flavors. It is mildly aromatic and can produce complex wines that show characteristics of ground brown spices such as clove, cinnamon, and allspice.
Nero d’Avola A leading Sicilian red wine. Known for its superbly bold fruit-driven flavors that range from black cherry to prune. Full-bodied, relatively high in tannins.
Nero di Troia (Puglia)
Aromas of violets, red and black fruits with notes of vanilla, star anise, herbs and spice. These are followed by flavors of raspberry, cherry, plum and blackberry along with cedar, tobacco, leather and dark chocolate, leading to a persistent finish. The wine is medium- to full-bodied, is high in tannins, and is medium acidic.
Perricone is often described as being similar to Barbera, with high acidity and characteristics of red berries, earth and herbs. However, Perricone has strong, noticeable tannins that can accentuate the bitterness many people find on the palate of these wines. It is tamed in this regard by Nero d’Avola, its traditional blending partner, but Perricone has the potential to make interesting, highly aromatic wines by itself.
Piedirosso means “red feet” in Italian. Single-variety wines made from Piedirosso tend to be deep ruby in color and full-bodied with soft tannins. Typical flavors in these wines include plum, cherry and brambly wild berry fruit. More complex characteristics such as espresso, mushroom and damp earth are exhibited in the better examples.
Primitivo (Puglia region)
This wine, nearly identical to a Zinfindal, produces inky, tannic wines, particularly Primitivo di Manduria and its naturally sweet Dolce Naturale variant. A classic Primitivo wine is high in both alcohol and tannins, intensely flavored and deeply colored.
Rosso di Montepulciano (Montepulciano)
This wine uses a delightful Sangiovese from young vines of Vino Nobile that has been aged briefly in oak. Fruity fragrances of cherry, blackberry, mineral and spice are dry and supple on the palate. Elegant, yet juicy and smooth finish.
Varietal Sagrantino is a dark and dense wine that is unique to Umbria. Its fruit profile ranges from black cherries to ripe blackberry, with many secondary spicy and earthy characteristics.
The principal grape of Tuscany, where it is the primary component of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese is relatively light in color and quite firmly acidic. In Italy it shows distinctive flavors of pie cherry, anise, and tobacco.
Super Tuscan (Tuscany)
Coined in the early 1980’s, “Super Tuscans” are red blends from Tuscany. What makes “super Tuscan” different from other Tuscan wines is the use of wine grapes that are not indigenous to Italy. In particular, these grapes include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The creation of super Tuscan wines was a result of the frustration winemakers had towards a bureaucracy that took too long to change the wine law of Italy during the 1970’s. Winemakers began mixing ‘unsanctioned’ wine varieties into their blends to make high-quality wines. Italy now sanctions the Super Tuscan with the IGT classification.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Montepulciano)
Medium-bodied, dry, and lean, with red cherry flavor, similar to Chianti but slightly fuller. Made from Sangiovese grapes in Montepulciano, in the Tuscany region.