Everything You Need to Know About Italian Red Wine

Posted May 25, 2017

italian red wine

Italy is known for a lot of great things, but delicious wine is arguably one of the most notable contributions Italy has made. (Because what is a bowl of pasta with a rich meat sauce without a full-bodied wine?) Specifically, Italian red wine is something we can all thank Italy for (we certainly do!).

But what do you need to know about Italian red wine? From the grapes used to the meals they are best paired with, here is what you need to know.

Types of Grapes that Produce Italian Red Wine

A wine’s flavor is primarily determined by the grape used to make it. In Italy, there are hundreds of different types of grapes used to make wine grown throughout the country, but these are the notable red grapes you should be familiar with:  

  • Barbera

Lush and herbaceous, barbera grapes are some of the most versatile around. Though they are grown throughout Italy, the highest quality ones hail from Piedmont.

  • Corvina

Grown primarily in the Veneto region, Corvina grapes are known most for Amarone wine. What makes this process so unique is that the grapes are dried into raisins before fermentation, resulting in a highly concentrated taste with cherry, plum and almond notes.

  • Lambrusco

With over 60 variations, Lambrusco grapes are often blended to achieve the best flavor. While the grapes themselves are not too sweet, the wines they produce are sweet, fizzy and fruity. This sweetness occurs during the fermentation stage.

  • Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a grape variety that is most noted for being the primary grape behind Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines. But don’t confuse it with the similarly named Tuscan wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made from predominantly Sangiovese grapes and is named for the village it is produced in, rather than for containing any Montepulciano grapes in the blend! The earthy and berry flavors are perfect to pair with weekday night meals.

  • Nebbiolo

With intoxicating smells of cherry, rose and truffles, Nebbiolo grapes produce some of the most expensive Italian red wine available, including Barolo and Barbaresco. This is mostly due to the strict aging requirements these wines have so that the tannins can balance with the other flavors.

  • Negroamaro

Produced almost exclusively in Apulia (in the Puglia region), these grapes create a deeply-colored wine with a strong earthy bitterness and perfume aroma.

  • Sangiovese

The most commonly grown red grape in Italy, Sangiovese is a frequent star in Italian red wine, notably Chianti. Known for its high tannins and acidity, Sangiovese grapes produce earthy wines with cherry and tea leaf notes.


Italian red wine

Credit: winefolly.com

Italian Red Wines

From these grapes come a variety of flavors and experiences. These are the most common types of red wine made in Italy:

  • Amarone—(Corvina) dry, firm and full-bodied
  • Barbaresco—(Nebbiolo) tannic, floral aroma and medium-bodied
  • Barbera—(Barbera) versatile, dry with berry flavors
  • Barolo—(Nebbiolo) dry, full-bodied with a mixture of earth and berry notes
  • Brunello di Montalcino—(Sangiovese) full-bodied, tannic with intense flavors
  • Chianti—(Sangiovese) extra dry, tart with notes of cherry
  • Lambrusco—(Lambrusco) sweet and slightly sparkling
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo—(Montepulciano) medium-bodied with a dense texture
  • Salice Salentino—(Negroamaro) dry, full-bodied with intense fruit aromas
  • Valpolicella—(Corvina) dry, lean and medium-bodied
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano—(Sangiovese) dry, medium-bodied and fruity

Italian Red Wine Pairing

With an understanding of common red wines and the grapes they are made from, here is what you need to know about pairing these wines with food.

Italian red wine

Credit: winefolly.com


  • Lighter meat (shellfish, white meat)—lighter, tannic reds, such as Barbaresco
  • Heavier meat (red meat, cured and smoked meat)—deep, complex reds, like Brunello di Montalcino  


  • Tomato-based sauces (like Mici’s Cortonese and Marinara)—dry, medium- to full-bodied reds, such as our house wine Piccini Memoro Rosso.


  • Hard cheeses (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, aged Cheddar)—dry and tart wines, like Chianti


  • Roasted vegetables—light and fruity wines, like Lambrusco

For more information on wine pairings, click here.

Now that you are a certified expert on Italian red wine, stop by Mici and try some of our wines today! Don’t forget about our wine and pizza deal.

Italian red wine