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How to Taste Italian Wine

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Italian wine is some of the most delicious and diverse in the world. Yes a lot of it is about the ‘Rossos’ (the red to you and I), but from crisp whites to the well-known rich reds, there's in fact something for every palate. In this post, we'll explore some of the most popular Italian wines, how to taste them like an expert, and what makes them so special.

Don't limit yourself to tasting only the wines you might know already - many Italian wines can be found in every price range imaginable and are there to experiment. Remember that the Brunellos and Barolos will be among the most expensive, so take a trip to your local wine merchant, ask a few questions, and find the perfect Italian wine for you.

It's okay to branch out beyond wine ratings and say "I like this $10 bottle of Sangiovese better than the $50 bottle of Brunello." That's the beauty of wine tasting, there really are no rules. Take Prosecco, a sparkling wine from the Veneto region in northeastern Italy. Prosecco is made from the Glera grape and is known for its fruity and floral aromas, as well as its dry, refreshing taste. It's a great wine to start a meal or to enjoy as a celebratory drink, and doesn’t need to be a high price point to get the party popping. While it may normally be sparkling or frizzante, there are also flat (or still) Proseccos made as well that you can pick up for less that $20.

Ann hathaway sipping Prosecco

Cheers Hustle. Tenor Gif

Onto the reds: Youthful reds will be more fresh fruit flavours, while a more aged wine will have baked and aged fruit flavours. For example, beginning wine tasters tend to be more attracted to fresher, brighter plum notes that are more common in younger wines rather than dried or baked plum flavours which are more typical in aged wines. In general, steering clear of overtly tannic wines from the get-go is best - the drying sensation in your mouth post sip are the tannins at work. Mostly it is fair to day that the highly tannic wines will take some warming up and many people find them to complement food well, but be slightly less enjoyable on their own.

Don’t be shy of the blends once you gain confidence: Chianti is made from a blend of grapes, but the main variety is Sangiovese, known for its intense, complex flavours of red fruit, spice, and leather. It's a great wine to pair with pasta or red meat dishes and will be a joy to experiment with.

illustration of a sangiovese bottle of wine

Sangiovese bottle. 7-Day Connoisseur Book.

Another popular Italian red wine is Barolo, from the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape and is known for its powerful, tannic structure and flavours of dark fruit, truffles, and roses. It's a wine that can be aged for many years and is an excellent match for hearty meat dishes - not that I can hold my own on the chef front.

Sicilian wines are also gaining popularity and are a delight to try tasting. The island is home to a wide variety of grapes, but the most notable are Nero d'Avola and Catarratto. Nero d'Avola is a bold and spicy red wine, while Catarratto is a light and floral white wine - if you’re more of a white drinker this is a good place to start.

Finally, Italy is also known for its sweet wines, such as Moscato d'Asti, a white wine from the Piedmont region. It is a light, slightly effervescent wine with a sweet, fruity flavour and a low alcohol content - perfect with your chocolate buttons and a trashy film.

picture of a Moscato D'asti wine

Moscato d'Asti DOCG Antinori.

When tasting Italian wines, it's important to remember that the country has a wide variety of wine regions, each with its unique terroir and winemaking traditions. The best way to get a sense of what Italian wines offer is to try different varieties from different regions and enjoy complementary foods that make the most of them.

From the refreshing Prosecco to the intense Barolo, there is a wine for every occasion. Whether you're a seasoned wine connoisseur or a curious beginner, Italian wines are worth exploring and having the confidence to try with friends and family and a big ‘SALUTE’ to one another.

If you want to learn more about Italian Wine, check out our book The Italian Wine Connoisseur: a 7-Day Guide to Mastering Italian Wine.

Book formats for the Italian wine connoisseur

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