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An essential guide to Italian wine

30th March, 2021

With grapes grown in almost every region, it is no wonder that Italy’s wonderfully diverse wines account for one third of the world’s total wine production. Some of the world’s oldest wine producing regions can be found here, and there are over 350 different grape varieties grown through the country. The choice of wine can be confusing, but here’s a little guide to give you a little help along the way.

Italy’s main wine regions

There are 20 wine regions in Italy but these are the most notable…


An important wine region which produces many different styles of wine including Prosecco from Glera grapes, white wine from Garganega and Volpolcella grapes, and red varieties based on blends of Corvino grapes.

Marche and Abruzzo

These two regions have a history of producing wine that dates back to the Etruscans and Romans. You’ll find white wines made from Verdicchio grapes and red wines made from Montepulciano grapes.


One of the most renowned regions, which produces Chianti, as well as sweet and dry whites and full bodied reds. Sangiovese grapes flourish here.


Piedmont wines have classic flavours of sour cherries and a high acidity. Heavy-duty reds are produced here. Nebbiolo grapes are used for the famous big, burly Barbaresco and Barola wines.


One of the largest wine regions that produces two famous sparkling varieties, Franciacorte and Lambrusco.


The island’s climate is ideal for wine production and, famously, Ner d’Avola is produced here. Red wines from Sicily are rich, dark and fruity, and the Syrah grown here is similar to that of the South of France and Rhone Valley.

Choosing the right wine for your meal

Italian wines are made for Italian food. In fact, the wine produced in each individual region often reflects the local cuisine. Choosing the right wine to complement your meal doesn’t have to be tricky.

Chianti and Dolcetto d’Alba

These wines will go with almost everything from meatballs to tomato-rich spaghetti.

Piedmont’s Barolo or Barbaresco wines

These bold flavours are great for steak or heavy red meat.

Pinot Grigio

A popular wine with high acidity that is perfect for seafood and poultry.

The basics for pasta

A tomato based pasta pairs nicely with a medium-bodied red wine. Cheesy pasta suits a full-bodied white wine or a light-bodied red wine. Pair seafood pasta with either a light or medium-bodied white wine. Vegetable (or herb) based pasta dishes are best with light-bodied white wines.

Wine label translation

Have you ever wondered what the words on the wine label mean? Here are just some of the words translated.

Poggio – means hill or elevated place, describing the landscape where the grapes were grown.

Vigneto – vineyard

Castello – similar to the word ‘chateau’ on a wine estate.

Cascina or Cantina – winery

Fattoria – wine farm

Riserva – wine that’s been aged usually a year longer than normal.

Classico – a classic wine growing area.

Superiore – has more alcohol than the regular version of the wine

How to understand an Italian wine list

You can always ask for help from your wine sommelier when ordering your wine, but it’s always helpful to know what to look out for on the wine list.

Here's an example:

Emidio Pepe Producer
Montepulciano D'Abruzzo Type of wine
Abruzzi Region
2003 Vintage

(2003 is a very good vintage in Italy)

Discover Italy

Explore the wines of Italy on one of our holidays to Italy.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.