Use This Flow Chart for Selecting Italian Red Wines

Don’t worry, if you think Italian wines are challenging, you’re not the only person. There are only a few varieties of these wines known outside of Italy, and there are hundreds of grape wine varieties known outside of Italy.

Produttori del Barbaresco. Nebbiolo. Red Italian Wine
Langhe is made with Nebbiolo., a top quality red wine grape from Northern Italy. photo by Brett Jones

Tips on Enjoying Italian Red Wines

Here are a couple of suggestions to help you get started with enjoying Italian red wines:.

  • Discover Italy’s exceptional wines by exploring a wide selection of options: Italy offers over 500 unique varieties. Be sure to try out multiple types during your exploration.
  • Italian red wines exhibit a contrast between fruity characteristics in the Southern regions and earthy characteristics in the Northern regions.
  • Make sure to pour: It’s a fantastic suggestion to pour all Italian red wines before consuming.
  • Italian Red Wines Flow Chart

    Chart of Italian Red Wine

    View the version with a white background here.

    The 8 Major Italian Red Wines

    If you’re searching for an excellent location to begin, take a look at these renowned Italian red wines.

  • Sangiovese.
  • Montepulciano (the variety of grape).
  • Barbera.
  • Nero d’Avola.
  • Primitivo (also known as Zinfandel).
  • Valpolicella Blends.
  • Dolcetto.
  • Nebbiolo.
  • Sangiovese. wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly


    Enjoy after a period of 4-7 years, although exceptional samples can endure for a longer duration.

    173,000 Acres – All of Italy – Italy’s champion red variety, Sangiovese., goes by many names. You’ve probably heard of a few of them:

  • Chianti.
  • Montalcino’s Brunello.
  • Vino Nobile from Montepulciano (unrelated to Montepulciano, the grape).
  • Montefalco Rosso.
  • Morellino di Scansano is the name of the wine.
  • This grape grows all over Italy and because of this, you’ll notice that Sangiovese. wines vary widely from one region to the next. In Tuscany, you can find very earthy Sangiovese. wines with black cherry notes and bold tannins, and in Southern Italy, around Campania, you can find lighter Sangiovese. wines tasting of strawberries and roses with medium tannins.

    Montepulciano wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly


    Enjoy By: Generally optimal after 4-7 years of aging, although exceptional specimens endure for a longer period.

    Additionally, there are several popular names that can be discovered in the Central region of Italy, and one of them is Montepulciano. Interestingly, Montepulciano is the second most widely cultivated grape in Italy, even though many people have never heard of it. It is worth noting that Montepulciano occupies a staggering 75,000 acres in Italy’s Central region.

  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
  • Rosso Conero.
  • Rosso Piceno.
  • Supposedly, there are less than 100 acres of grape growing outside Italy. Although some producers will blend it with other grapes to round out the flavor, Montepulciano is deeply colored and similar to Syrah, with very bold tannins.

    Barbera. wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly


    Consume By: Usually optimal within the initial 3 years.

    70,000 Acres – Piedmont – Barbera. is the most produced Italian red wine of Piedmont. Over 60% of the world’s Barbera. vineyards exist in the region. Barbera. almost always has a unique note of licorice in the taste, which is what makes it so unique. While American Barbera. can be quite fruit-forward, Italian Barbera. is often herbaceous with juicy acidity and tart black cherry flavors.

    Nero d'Avola wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly

    Nero d’Avola.

    Consume By: Usually within 5-7 years, although exceptional samples endure for a longer period.

    47,000 Acres – Sicily – A bold but fruit-forward variety hailing almost exclusively from Sicily. Nero d’Avola. can, at times, be surprisingly similar in style to Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Negroamaro wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly

    Primitivo & Negroamaro

    Consume By: Usually optimal within the initial 3 years.

    The structure and flavors of Negroamaro and Primitivo blend together to create a common and fruity taste. These Italian wines often exhibit lighter and sweeter notes of leather, blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry. Interestingly, Primitivo is actually a grape called Tribidrag in Croatia, and it grows alongside Negroamaro in Southern Italy, specifically in Puglia. Italy has around 60,000 acres dedicated to the cultivation of these grapes.

    Valpolicella wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly

    Valpolicella Blend

    Beverage By: Differs depending on the style of Valpolicella.

    This blend of signature grapes, Rondinella, Molinara, and Corvina, is what makes Valpolicella Classico and simple tart Veneto’s prized wine – Amarone. This wine is made by partially dehydrating the grapes to increase the intensity of the wine. The style of this wine varies depending on the 22,000 acres in the Veneto region.

    Dolcetto. wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly


    Consume By: Usually within the initial 3 years.

    18,000 Acres – Piedmont – A deeply colored red wine with high tannins but lower acidity. Dolcetto. is one of the easiest wines to drink immediately instead of after several years of cellaring. This wine is made mostly in Piedmont, although it grows in Lombardy too. It can commonly be found by these names:

  • Dogliani.
  • Dolcetto. d’Alba
  • Dolcetto. d’Ovada
  • Dolcetto. di Diano d’Alba
  • Nebbiolo. wine taste profile - infographic by Wine Folly


    Enjoy By: Usually ideal after 7-10 years.

    12,000 Acres – Piedmont – Piedmont’s most well respected red wine is actually quite tiny in terms of how much exists in the world. Just so you have a relative comparison, there are nearly 50 times more Cabernet Sauvignon grapes planted in the world than Nebbiolo.. Nebbiolo. has many regional names and styles:

  • Barbaresco.
  • Barolo.
  • Valtellina.
  • Roero.
  • Ghemme.
  • Gattinara.
  • Sforzato (a rare Nebbiolo. made with the same method as Amarone)
  • Nebbiolo. from the hotter growing areas can be very bold, tannic, and long-lived, as is the case with Barolo.. In the north, as with Ghemme. and Gattinara., Nebbiolo. can be quite delicate and tart in taste, smelling of roses and bing cherries.