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What's In the Bottle of Wine - Italy

As with most other European countries, knowing what is in a bottle of Italian wine can be difficult. That is because many Italian wines are labeled with the region of origin rather than grape variety. In fact, Italian wine can be labeled in one of there ways:

Italy is the world's second largest wine producer. The top three wine producing regions of Italy are:

1. Veneto
2. Piedmont
3. Tuscany

  1. By geographic region or appellation of origin such as Chianti, Barolo, or Barbaresco
  2. By region and varietal such a Barbara d'Alba (literally a wine made from the Barbera grape from the region of Alba)
  3. By varietal

Obviously, the later two methods of labeling wine are the most helpful, as they both let you know what grape was used to make the wine. The challenge is knowing what is in the bottles that are labeled with a place name. While Italy is a large country with hundreds of indigenous grape varieties, we will simplify this by focusing on the top 3 Italian wine producing regions.


Some of the most commonly encountered wines from the Veneto region of Italy are Volpolicella, Bardolino, and Soave. The grapes used to make these wines are:

Piedmont (Piemonte)

There are three main red wine grapes used in the Piedmont region of Italy:

  1. Barbera
  2. Dolcetto
  3. Nebbiolo

The varietal Barbara often appears on the label of the wine along with the place of origin, such as Barbara d'Alba or Barbara d'Asti. Similarly, Dolcetto is often labeled as Barbara by both grape name and region, such as Dolcetto d'Acqui, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Asti.

The full bodied red wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are both made from the Nebbiolo grape. Other Piedmont villages where Nebbiolo is used include: Gattinara, Carema, and Ghemme.

Italian law requires that the Chianti must include at least 80% Sangiovese. Often times, Chianti is made with 100% Sangiovese. That being said, the law does allow the other 20% to be "non-tradtional" grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and others.

White wine grapes used in Piedmont are Arneis, Cortese, and Moscato which is the main grape in the famous sparkling wine Asti (formerly Asti Spumante).

Tuscany (Toscana)

The Tuscan region of Italy is synonymous with the Sangiovese red wine grape. This grape is at the heart of the wines Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti, Chianti Classico, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Antinori 2007 Santa Cristina - Sangiovese Red Wine

Marchesi di Barolo 2004 Barolo Cannubi - Nebbiolo Red Wine