All you need to know to order your perfect Italian wine

By Go! Go! Italia staff
05 Mar 2024
Reading Time: 6 minutes
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In Italian daily life, il vino (wine) is much more than a drink; across Italy, wine is enjoyed regularly at meal times, reflecting a tradition that values the simple pleasures of life. Same as for coffee daily ritual, this isn’t just about enjoying a glass of wine; it’s about taking a moment to slow down, enjoy the flavors, and connect with family and friends. 

It’s this everyday practice that highlights wine’s significance beyond its taste, marking it as a vital component of Italian social and cultural identity. 

In this article we will learn more about Italian wine and Italian words related to wine so that you can make the most out of your experience in Italy.

Italian wine during the Roman Empire

The famous saying by Plinio il Vecchio (Pliny the Elder AD 23/24 – AD 79), “In vino veritas” (There’s truth in wine), highlights how crucial wine was since the oldest of times.

At the peak of Rome’s love for wine during the Roman Empire, it’s believed that every person, regardless of their wealth, consumed about a bottle of wine each day. Wine was accessible to everyone in Roman society, not merely a luxury for the affluent.

Ordering Italian wine in a restaurant

If you plan to go out dining in Italy and are not too clued up on wines but still want to enjoy a good, authentic wine without spending too much, don’t worry! We’ve got some tips to help you find the perfect sip to go with your meal without breaking the bank.

Vino della casa

It is translated to “house wine,” is a common offering in Italian restaurants, showing the country’s welcoming and inclusive approach to wine consumption. This option provides an economical way for you to enjoy wine without having to think about it too much. Here’s a closer look at the concept:

  • Locally sourced: House wines are typically sourced from local vineyards, reflecting the flavors and characteristics of the region’s soil. This local sourcing supports surrounding winemakers and ensures freshness and authenticity in the wine served.
  • Value for money: Vino della casa is usually more affordable than bottled wines listed on the menu, offering good value.
  • Served by bicchiere (glass) or caraffa (carafe): House wines can often be ordered by the glass or in carafes of varying sizes. This flexibility allows diners to sample wine without committing to a full bottle, making it ideal for individuals or pairs, and for those wishing to moderate their intake. 
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Choose the type of wine based on your meal

Think about what you’re eating. Italian dining emphasizes pairing the right wine with the right dish. Lighter dishes like fish or salads go well with white wines or lighter reds, while heavier, meaty dishes pair well with full-bodied reds.

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Dive deeper, know more about your Italian wine

Italy’s diverse wine regions

Italy’s landscape is as varied as it is beautiful, with each region cultivating its own distinct varieties that capture the essence of its local environment.

According to Ian D’Agata comprehensive wine guide, currently, there are approximately 400 recognized types of Italian wine. And there have been speculations about over 2,000 different Italian grape varieties. While only about 400 of these are utilized for wine production in commercially substantial quantities, this figure surpasses the combined count of native grape varieties found in France, Spain, and Greece.

Let’s discover some of Italy’s most celebrated wine regions, where we’ll uncover the signature wines and grape varieties that make Italian vino truly special.

Toscana (Tuscany)

Signature wines: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Key grape varieties: Predominantly Sangiovese, with Canaiolo for reds and Vermentino for whites, capturing the essence of Tuscany’s rolling hills and historic vineyards.

Piemonte (Piedmont)

Signature wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera d’Asti.

Key grape varieties: Nebbiolo stands out for its contribution to the robust Barolo and Barbaresco wines, while Barbera and Dolcetto offer more approachable, everyday drinking options.


Signature wines: Valpolicella (including its rich Amarone variant), Prosecco.

Key grape varieties: Corvina and Rondinella are the backbone of Valpolicella wines, whereas Glera is the sole hero behind the sparkling Prosecco.

Sicilia (Sicily)

Signature wines: Nero d’Avola, Marsala, Etna Bianco.

Key grape varieties: Nero d’Avola for powerful reds, while Grillo and Catarratto contribute to both the historic Marsala and refreshing white wines of the island.


Signature wines: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.

Key grape varieties: Montepulciano offers deeply flavored, accessible reds, and Trebbiano provides crisp, versatile whites that are perfect for a variety of occasions.

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Italian wine classification

Italian wines are classified into several quality categories. Here is an explanation for each classification to help you choose your best wine.

1. Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

Means “Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin” – This is the top grade. Wines with a DOCG label follow really strict rules regarding grape varieties, production methods, aging, and geographical origin.This is to make sure you’re getting the best quality and guarantee authenticity. It’s like the gold medal of Italian wines. 

2. Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) 

Meaning “Controlled Designation of Origin” – These wines also have to stick to certain rules about how they’re made, but the rules are a bit less strict than DOCG. Think of it as the silver medal, still really good and with a lot of tradition behind it. 

3. Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)

Translates to “Typical Geographical Indication” –  This label is for wines that are a bit more experimental or don’t fit the traditional methods as closely. It gives winemakers the freedom to try new things. So, while they might not follow all the old rules, they can still be really interesting and delicious. You could say it’s like the bronze medal, but with a twist of creativity.

Typically, a wine labeled as DOC has maintained the IGT status for at least 5 years. After spending a minimum of 10 years within the DOC classification, a wine can advance to the higher DOCG designation.

4. Vini da Tavola 

In English “table wines” – This category represents the most basic level of Italian wines, indicating wines that do not follow the DOC or DOCG restrictions. They can be made from any variety of grape, from any part of Italy, and do not have to adhere to any specific standards of viticulture or winemaking. This category includes a wide range of wine qualities, from simple table wines to innovative blends that don’t fit into the traditional Italian wine classification system.

When you’re picking out an Italian wine, these labels can help guide you to what kind of experience you’re looking for, whether it’s something traditional and high-quality or something a bit different and innovative.

How to pair Italian wines and elevate your dining experience

At all Go! Go! Italia destinations, you have the chance to sample a variety of regional dishes and match them with local wines. Here are our top picks:

Milano (Lombardia)

Food to try: Risotto alla Milanese. A creamy, saffron-flavored rice dish that’s a must in Milan.

Wine pairing: Go for a Nebbiolo (red) for its rich flavor or a bubbly Franciacorta to add some sparkle to the creamy risotto.

Roma (Lazio)

Food to try: Carbonara. This classic pasta with egg, cheese, guanciale, and black pepper is Roman comfort food at its best.

Wine pairing: A glass of Frascati (white) is light and refreshing, cutting through the richness of the carbonara beautifully.

Genova (Liguria)

Food to try: Trofie pasta with pesto. Genova’s famous for its basil pesto, perfect on pasta.

Wine pairing: Try a Vermentino or Pigato (white), whose floral and citrus notes complement the fresh basil and garlic.

Firenze (Tuscany)

Food to try: Bistecca alla Fiorentina. A big, T-bone steak grilled over a wood fire.

Wine pairing: A hearty red like Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino brings out the best in the steak.

Taormina (Sicilia)

Food to try: Pasta alla Norma. A delicious tomato and eggplant pasta.

Wine pairing: Nero d’Avola or Etna Rosso (red) are great choices, with their fruity and slightly spicy flavors.

Salerno (Campania)

Food to try: Seafood pasta or pizza with buffalo mozzarella. Fresh seafood and creamy mozzarella are stars here.

Wine pairing: Fiano di Avellino (white) is aromatic and crisp, perfect with both seafood and cheese.

Venezia (Veneto)

Food to try: Cicchetti (Venetian bites) or seafood risotto. Small bites or creamy risotto, both are Venetian favorites.

Wine pairing: Prosecco (bubbly) for a light, festive touch, or Soave (white) for its gentle flavors with seafood.

Have you been dreaming of spending time in Italy, sipping your favorite wine in a historical center where the culture of wine has flourished? Imagine ordering wine in Italian and listening to and understanding explanations from a local vintner in their native language.

Contact Go! Go! Italia today to take a step closer to your dream. We can recommend and help you through Italian language courses application, and also immersive programs which offer a unique blend of Italian language instruction, wine classes, tastings, and cultural experiences, providing a well-rounded approach to learning and discovery. Salute!  (Cheers!)

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