An Italian Wine Cheat Sheet

History on Italian Wine

Since time immemorial, people have been enjoying drinking wine. Italian wine is among the best and largest produced. The Greeks who had settled in Southern Italy and Sicily exported the art of growing wine to Italy. 

They were impressed with the Italian climate that is perfect for producing different types of Italian wine.

The other group of people that produced wines were the Etruscans who settled in Central Italy. The Romans improved the techniques that were used by the Etruscans and the Greeks to make wine. 

After that, the demand for wine increased, and you would find people taking wine with every meal. For this reason, a lot of wine had to be produced. Sweet Italian wine is mostly preferred compared to dry white Italian wine.

Glasses with red, pink and white wine - The Proud Italian

Interpreting an Italian Wine Label

You need to understand what some of the wine labels mean. Here are some Italian wine labels:

  • The producer– you need to know that the label denotes where or who produced the wine. It could also be the estate name.
  • Vintage– this is the year when the wine was made.
  • The Designation– this is indicated by terms such as:

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita (DOCG)-this is the highest quality wine. Only a few areas with a minimum of five years in production are allowed to produce it.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)-here, both the region and the grape used are specified.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)-here, the grapes’ geographic source is stated.

Vino da Tavola (VdT)with this, grapes from anywhere are used to prepare it.

  • Grape variety– The DOC designation will show the types of grape used.
  • The appellation– this is an area that is legally identified as where the grapes are grown.
  • Alcohol content will also be stated.
  • Riserva– this is for wines that are a minimum of one year old.
  • Nobile– it is part of the description of one or two DOCG wines.

Man holding a bottle of wine in wine bar - The Proud Italian

The Italian Wine Producing Regions

Wine is an essential part of Italy’s way of life. Here are some of the Italian wine regions:


Piedmont produces some of the most renowned red wines, such as Barolo and Barbaresco. The region has the frosty Alps up North, and it is also near the balmy Mediterranean. The foggy climate helps in the ripening of the Nebbiolo grape used in both Barolo and Barbaresco wines. 

Nebbiolo produces light-colored red wines that later age well. Other typical grapes that are grown in Piedmont are Barberra and Dolcetto. They are considered more along the lines of “everyday wines.” 

Barbera produces wines that are very rich with a fruity flavor. On the other hand, Dolcetto is well-balanced in terms of tannins and acidity.


This is the region in Italy that is known for producing Chianti, Italy’s best-known wine. You will find the most scenic vineyards in Italy in Tuscany. It is Italy’s most ancient wine-producing region since the 8th century BC.

Tuscany’s wines are the blends that incorporate its native Sangiovese grapes. Sangiovese produces acidic wines that span a range of flavors. Chianti is made from at least 80% Sangiovese. Brunello di Montalcino is made with 100% of Sangiovese grapes.

Landscape of Tuscany with vineyard and house - The Proud Italian

Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the best white wine in Tuscany, is made from the Vernaccia grape that produces a citrusy flavor. The most famous dessert in Tuscany is biscotti. It is one of the Italian wine cookies dipped in Vin Santo, a sweet wine made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes.


The Italian wine prosecco is a sparkling Italian wine that is produced in Veneto. This white wine is made from Glera grapes, although you can incorporate other Italian wine grapes in a small percentage. 

The region has a cool climate that is near the Alps. The climate aids in the growth of fresh and crisp white wines such as Soave made from Garganega grapes. In the warm areas, close to Lake Garda and Adriatic, red wines such as Amarone, Bardolino, and Valpolicella are produced.


This is one of the oldest regions in Italy that produces wine. It is famous for Lambrusco, which is a sparkling red wine. It is made from grapes of the same name that were first cultivated by the ancient Etruscans. 

The wine comes in varieties of dry versus sweet, and the acidity rate is high. Other grape varieties grown in the area are Trebbiano, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Malvasia.


This is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea. It has the best conditions for growing wine. This explains why you will find most vineyards here. It is famously known for producing sweet Marsala wine that is used in cooking. At the same time, it can be used as drinking wine.

Another sweet wine that is produced in Sicily is Zibibbo. For Zibibbo, the grapes are always left to ferment in the sun. It has similar characteristics to that of Marsala, though with lower alcohol content.

Vineyard in Sicily - The Proud Italian

The Must-Try Italian Wines

There are over 350 regional wines in Italy. You should therefore try some. Grab your Italian wine glasses and get ready while you have a look at this Italian wine list:

1. Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico has several quality tiers that include Riserva and Gran Selezione. It is one that you will like to try with any food.

San Felice Chianti Classico

DOCG 2017 ($16)

2. Barbera

Vietti is a reliable producer in Piedmont that makes Moscato d’ Asti to Barolo. Barbera is more classic in style with a fruitier flavor. It is a wine from Piedmont.

Barbera wine in glass with vine leaf - The Proud Italian

Vietti Barbera d’ Asti

DOCG 2016 ($17)

3. Nebbiolo

The producer here is a regional cooperative in the Barbaresco region. The Nebbiolos from this region are a bit softer on tannin, and hence the wine is more delicate as well.

Produttori del Barbaresco

Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2017 ($27)

4. Super Tuscan (IGT)

It is an IGT because it is produced from “unofficial grapes.” It consists of 65% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.

Mazzei “Poggio Badiola”

Toscana IGT 2016 ($12)

5. Nerello Mascalese

The wine is made from the Nerello Mascalese grape. It tastes like Italy’s “Pinot Noir.”

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso DOC2017

It is a quite expensive Italian wine that will cost you $25

Red grapes of Nerello Mascalese - The Proud Italian

An Original Italian Wine Cookie Recipe

Servings: 36

Yield: 2-3 dozen


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar for decoration


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Add wine and oil and mix well with a large fork.
  3. Roll small pieces of dough between your hands to make “logs,” then make circular shapes. Roll the cookies in extra sugar and place on a cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 minutes or until it is slightly brown. Cool the cookies until they are hard and crispy.


As mentioned earlier, with all the types of Italian wine, get to an Italian wine bar and have one for the road. You should be free to enjoy any. You can also try some of the Italian wine cookies. Use the recipe above to prepare at home.