A Quick Guide to Italian Wine

Before we get into the super Super Tuscan we’ll be trying, here is a quick guide to Italian wine.


Italian wine classification

Italian wines, like most European wines, are named according to their region. These regions are then classified according to quality. Think of it as a triangle, with the top being the highest quality (and lowest quantity produced). From top to bottom:

DOCG (think of it as the Don Corleone or Godfather of Italian wine.) These wines have to follow the strictest regulations, including a government regulated test prior to bottling. Does this mean that these are the best wines from Italy? Not necessarily - sometimes they rest on the laurels (or their name). This is where you’ll find your Barolos, Brunellos, etc. with price tags to match!


DOC – this wine follows a less stringent set of winemaking rules and  is produced in a specific region. However, there are hundreds of DOCs and, just like any area of a this gorgeous country, each has its own traditions (winemaking, grapes, etc.).  With a DOC wine, you are ‘guaranteed’ to have a wine that follows the local traditions.


IGT – this classification was born out of breaking the rules. This designation means that 85% of the wine was produced in that region but that they don’t follow all the rules of the stricter DOC or DOCG qualifications.


VdT – vino da tavola. These are the lowest quality wines. This tells you that the wine in your bottle is Italian. That’s about it. This is not to say that there aren’t delicious VdTs. If you’ve been to Italy and ordered a house wine, this was most likely a VdT.

Italian Wine Classification



A selection of Italian wines you should know: 


The most famous Italian wines are the Big Bs:

  • Barolo – from Piedmont in N. Italy, made of the Nebbiolo grape
  • Barbaresco – also from Piedmont in N. Italy, also made from he Nebbiolo grape
  • Brunello – from Tuscany, made with the Sangiovese grape


Italian Sparklers 

  • Franciacorta – highest quality Italian wine with bubbles
  • Prosecco – sparkling wine from Northern Italy – great to start a party


Other Delicious Italian Wines

  • Amarone – different grapes go into this concentrated wine. Here, grapes are picked and dried out and then pressed and fermented to make a concentrated, full bodied, high in alcohol wine.
  • Chianti = Sangiovese
  • Montelpuciano the varietal is NOT the same as Vino Nobile di Montepluciano which is made of Sangiovese.
  • Super Tuscan = check out the next lesson!

These are just a few of the many, many, many rockin’ Italian grape varietals and a high level overview of what you need to know.