A Brief Guide to Italian Wine Varietals

by Darya Boronilo
As fall approaches and the crisp autumn air falls upon us, you can finally start enjoying all those cozy fireside nights you’ve been dreaming of. What could make this time of year even better? A glass (or two) of Italian red wine, of course! Ready to stock your home with some great Italian reds this fall? Check out our top suggestions and find out why Italian red wines are an excellent choice.

Home to Some of the Best Wines

Benvenuti to Italy, home to some of the best wines in the world. The country’s diverse climate, soils, and winemaking traditions have resulted in a wide variety of local grape varieties and styles of wine. That’s why you can easily find a special bottle that matches you this fall! It can pair with a great family dinner on a big occasion, casually accompany you on the autumn picnic with friends or even become your meditation companion. We promise you won’t be disappointed! Cheers!

Wine next to fire in fall

Food-Friendly Chianti 

Wine lovers will surely appreciate the versatility of Italian wines. One of Italy’s most famous red wine grape varieties is Sangiovese, often referred to as the “King of the Italian grapes.” It dominates in many of the country’s most notable red blends, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Surprisingly, this grape can be made into red wines of all styles, from light and fruity to rich and full-bodied.
Our first choice for this fall is Sangiovese-based wines. This blend is produced in Tuscany, the region known for its stunning scenery. The golden rolling hills and lush vineyards are a sight to behold. But it’s not just the scenery that makes Chianti wines great. The climate of Tuscany is ideal for growing these vines. The region’s hot summers and cool winters create ideal conditions for developing complex grape flavors. As a result, Chianti wines in your glass have a beautiful balance of acidity and fruitiness. And as you taste them, you will notice they are never too heavy or too light.

In addition, Chianti wines are some of the most food-friendly wines in the world. You can pair them well with various foods, such as a plate of Tuscan pecorino cheese or charcuterie, such as Salame Toscano. In addition, you will see that they are an excellent companion for Italian pasta and red meat dishes. A glass of well-structured Chianti perfectly complements a tender Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, Tuscany’s world-famous steak. Enjoy a famous dinner over a combination of these top gourmet inventions.


Chianti wine glass and bottle

Syrah as the Autumn Match

Wondering what’s excellent for sipping in fall, on the terrace, or by the fire? Imagine a relaxing evening with a glass of Italian red in hand. Feel how the wine’s warm, comforting flavors perfectly match the autumn mood and the cozy ambiance.
Our next suggestion is wine made from Syrah, another incredible grape variety. The story of Italian Syrah is fascinating. The grape is native to the Rhône Valley in France but has found a second home in Tuscany. Here, the region’s hot Mediterranean sun and rocky soils give the wine a unique character. Tuscan Syrah is typically a full-bodied wine with intense dark fruit flavors that impress any fan of Italian red wines.
Due to its complex personality, you can perfectly match this wine with truffle-based meals, whether homemade pasta, hearty beef stew, or cheese. So, if you plan a big family dinner, you know what red to choose.
Syrah grape field in Fall

Wines of Great Value

Italian reds tend to offer great value. While there are some pricey Italian wines on the market, in general, the wines from Italy perfectly balance price and quality. This is especially true about wines from regions that are not world-famous. However, they have good fame in Italy among locals. For example, pay attention to the Abruzzo wine region. 

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is one of the most popular red wines in Italy. Italians produce it from the Montepulciano grape, native to the region. Don’t miss the opportunity to try these wines, famous for their deep ruby color and woody aroma, with exciting notes of cherries and vanilla. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo will leave your palate clean and dry as the wine with strong character and yet softer tannins. For this reason, you can confidentially pair it with grilled meats, pasta with tomato sauce, or even chocolate desserts. Remember that the colder season is perfect for trying some mouth-watering combinations!


Collection of valuable wine

Italian Reds are for Everyone

Italian wines offer a wide range of styles to choose from. Whatever your taste in wine, you’re sure to find an Italian red that best matches your personality. From light and fruity to dark, elegant, and complex, there’s an Italian red wine for everyone.

Some of the most interesting wines are from Sicily. The island’s unique volcanic soils contribute to high-quality wines. As you sip them, you will surprisingly distinguish an extraordinary complexity, notable minerality, and pleasant acidity. Our particular suggestion is Nero D’Avola, a grape variety native to the island. An exciting aroma bouquet in your glass will include black cherry, plum, chocolate, and spice notes. The grape is known for its deep color and rich flavor, making it a popular choice for wines meant to be enjoyed with food. Pair it with various dishes, including red meat, pasta, and pizza, and enjoy an exceptionally cozy evening.


People cheers with red wine

How to Go Through a Little Wine-Tasting 

Let’s go through a little wine-tasting experience:

  1. Take your glass and look at it closely. We should first check the clarity and brightness. Next, observe if it has any sediments. A good wine should not be cloudy.
  2. Hold your glass at a 30-degree angle to appreciate the shade of the wine. Is it purple, ruby, or brick red? For example, Sangiovese-based blends are typically profoundly colored, with shades of ruby. The color can give you a hint about the age and complexity of the wine. Naturally, young wines tend to have shades close to the cherry color, while aged ones turn into brick red or even brown. In addition, pay attention to the difference in color between the edges and the core. It tends to be darker and more concentrated in the center.
  3. Slightly swirl your glass to observe the “legs” or “tears,” the route that the wine leaves on the walls of the glass. Called viscosity in the professional wine world, it can tell you something about the alcohol level and sweetness of the wine. Usually, the higher viscosity means a higher alcohol content in wine and a higher residual sugar level.
  4. Now swirl your glass again, this time a bit faster, to catch the complex aromas. This introduces more oxygen and allows the flavors and aromas of the wine to open. As a result, you can distinguish such typical flavors of reds as cherry, strawberry, plum, earth, tobacco, and spice.
  5. Sip some wine to acclimate your palate. Lightly swish it in your mouth before swallowing. Use your taste buds to detect sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Good quality wines should have a balance between those four essential flavor components. And by contrast, poor-quality wines tend to be too sugary, astringent, hot (alcoholic), or flabby (lack of acidity). A harmonious wine has all of its four primary flavors well integrated. So, concentrate on how wine is perceived by different parts of your tongue when swallowing. For example, tannins (bitterness) are mainly detected on the gums, while the sides of your tongue detect acidity. Salty flavors are also perceived on the sides, but closer to the tongue’s tip, while sweetness is felt on the tip.
  6. Now pause to savor the aftertaste. A warm long-lasting aftertaste is one of the detectors of good-quality reds.
  7. For an even more exciting experience, try some blends with excellent aging capacity. It’s a great opportunity to see how a well-structured wine like Brunello di Montalcino or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano develops more depth and complexity through the years.

tasting white wine

Start Your Wine Collection

Many Italian red wines improve with age, so if you have the patience to cellar them, you’ll only get better results. It’s a great reason to start your wine collection at an improvised mini cellar home, keeping the best bottles for meaningful occasions. 
And in this case, you should look closer at Piedmont, home to some of Italy’s most celebrated red wines with excellent aging capacity. Choose among the most famous ones, such as Barbera, Barbaresco, and of course, the king of them all, Barolo. 

Barolo is undoubtedly the most interesting of the bunch. Locals use  Nebbiolo grapes for the production of this wine. The vines grow on the rocky, clay soil of the region’s hillsides. The climate here is cooler than in other parts of Italy, contributing to the acidity of the Nebbiolo grapes. The resulting wines are some of the most age-worthy in Italy. Take your time to appreciate their complex aromas and flavors, including roses, tar, and truffles. They perfectly pair with famous regional dishes such as Brasato al Barolo, a slow-cooking beef, Castelmagno cheese, and Bra Sausage.


Collection of red wine bottles

Wine-Based Experiences to Last a Lifetime

Perhaps, you will be interested in visiting small family wineries scattered among the rolling hills of Chianti, sipping a glass of Barolo while enjoying the alpine views, or even participating in grape stomping during the harvest. Our Seeltaly Travel team provides the most authentic experiences, from immersive wine tastings in Tuscany to gourmet adventures in Sicily! 
Would you like to learn the secrets of wine production from the local winemakers, bike through the vineyards, or participate in wine festivals? Then don’t hesitate to contact us for your unforgettable wine experience in Italy!

If you are an avid foodie, have a look at our blog post about

Sicilian gourmet adventures.

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