Navigating rows of Italian wines can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We’re here to translate those sometimes-confusing acronyms and unknown regions into straightforward explanations. With a few tips and tricks, finding your next standout Italian wine will be as easy as pulling the cork and enjoying.
And you’re in good hands — our international wine buyer Melanie Mann regularly samples and evaluates new releases to ensure that the bottles we sell clear our high bar for quality. Bonus: From February 1 through April 4, save on select Italian wines* (Hint: They’re featured below).
Exclusively for Prime members in select ZIP codes. Must be 21+. Please drink responsibly.
Italian Wine Regions
First, the basics. Italy is broken up into 20 distinct wine regions. The altitude and climate of these regions play a role in determining the character of the wine that’s grown there. Here are four regions from the Alps to Sicily to kick off the journey.
Renowned for nebbiolo, barbera, truffles and its picturesque location in the foothills of the Alps, Piedmont’s cooler climate creates optimal conditions for tannic wines with structure.
Stretching north from Venice, Veneto is home to crisp, zesty white wines — like Soave, Prosecco and Pinot Grigio.
Home to world-famous Chianti as well as the Super Tuscan — a luscious blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon — this warmer zone has been producing full-bodied reds for over two thousand years.
The island off the toe of the boot, Sicily sports a generally Mediterranean climate. It is believed that Mount Etna plays a role in cooling the air in its vicinity, along with providing the volcanic soil which can lend additional complexity to grapes.
Some of Our Favorite Italian Wines
Most of our stores typically carry 40 – 50 Italian wines, with some reaching over 100. To get you started, we’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorite selections from up and down “The Boot.” These wines showcase a variety of styles and offer something for every occasion.
Cleto Chiarli Centenario Lambrusco di Modena Amabile NV
An amethyst-colored pour with flavors of plum and raspberry, complete with a clean, fruity finish. Estate grown and produced by the Chiarli family in Modena since 1860.
Lunaria Ancestrale Sparkling Pinot Grigio Pet Nat
Try the trend: orange wine + Pet Nat = a talk-of-the-table import. Certified biodynamic and made with organically grown grapes, with notes of citrus peel, clove and honey.
La Zerba Il Galletto Gavi DOCG
You: soaking in the tub, suds to your neck, your mind drifting to Amalfi. That’s what this wine can conjure, with notes of pears, peaches and ivory flowers. Made with organically grown grapes.
Sospiro Grillo Sicilia
Do you like to eat melons down to the rind? This honeydew pour inspires … so give in to the full-bodied cream-coated fruits and the mellow, lingering finish. Made with organically grown grapes.
Aia Vecchia Vermentino IGT
Are you a sauvignon blanc fan? Curious about Italian whites? Then relish these complex flavors of green grass, lemon, tangerine and quince. Olives and bruschetta are a perfect +1.
Tommasi Rafaèl Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC
Mi amore, Italian wines! Delve into this heady, dense, tobacco-y and raisin-y blend. Whether you’re feasting on osso buco or simply folding laundry, this luscious red is heaven.
Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso
A singular expression of la dolce vita, this sangiovese has soft, rounded corners, offset with tart, fruity notes. Its mild acidity and white pepper finish bloom best with tomato-based pizza.
Caruso e Minini Nero d’Avola
If you like petite sirah or zinfandel, try this fave made with organically grown grapes — with notes of dried herbs, juicy plum and blueberry. Harmonious acidity frames the sweet red/blue fruit.
Masseria Surani Primitivo di Manduria DOC
With aromas of ripe raspberries and blackberries, this plush, rich Primitivo needs no decanting or fuss. It’s so easy to drink, it might be gone before dinner is ready.
Casa E. di Mirafiore Dolcetto d’Alba
Dark ruby-red with purple hues. Aromas of blueberries and grape. A medium-to-full-bodied palate with dense cherry, raspberry and blueberry notes. Yes, very approachable.
Barone Cornacchia Villa Torri Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
A wine of great harmony and intensity, here is Italy in a glass. Enjoy lush currant and black cherry fruit with velvety soft tannins. Made with organically grown grapes. Bellissimo.
Ricasoli Antico Feudo Toscana IGT
Cabernet and merlot smooth out the edges of sangiovese, offering up aromas of dark chocolate, raspberry, cherry and spice, with flavors of caramel and almond.
How to Read an Italian Wine Label
While the following classifications are a helpful guide, it’s important to remember that plenty of intriguing, quality wines fall outside of the parameters. Think of these labels as safe bets. The next time you browse, keep an eye out for DOC- and DOCG-certified wines — which feature a foil wrap below the cork.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata or Denomination of Controlled Origin
DOC is a step up in the classification system where wines must meet more demanding criteria based on growing area, grape type and quality.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin
The strictest requirements apply to each wine in this category, passing an in-depth analysis and tasting to receive the official DOCG seal of approval from the Italian government. Grape yields are generally lower and barrel aging longer (which could lead to softer notes and integration of complex flavors).
Buying and Storing Tips
Ready to find your new go-to or special occasion Italian wine? Check out Melanie’s insider tips for navigating our Wine department. After you’ve found the perfect bottle, make sure to store it properly if you’re not planning to drink it right away.
Know how to navigate our aisles: In each store, the Wine department is organized to mirror the geography of Italy. Left to right showcases wines from north to south.
Check the region: Cooler regions tend to produce lighter wines with higher acidity and more tannins. As you work south to areas with warmer growing seasons, the profile becomes darker, riper and jammier, with notes of spice.
Trust the importer: When in doubt, look for the wine importer on the label. Think of importers as art curators — if you love one of their wines, chances are you’ll like other selections in their portfolio too.
We can help: Team members in the Wine department are happy to help point you in the direction of age-worthy candidates — or something perfect for tonight.
Store with care: It doesn’t take a wine cellar, a special fridge or even a rack to age wine safely. Find a cool, dark, temperature-controlled space like a closet and stash away a few bottles. Lay them flat so that the cork doesn’t dry out. You might be surprised at the nuance and change a few years of maturity can bring.
Check out Our Guide to Shopping the Wine Department for even more insider tips.
*Valid 2/1 – 4/4/23 only. Select U.S. stores. Price as marked. Cannot be combined with case discount where prohibited by law. Sale prices not legally available in all stores. Must be 21+. Please drink responsibly. While supplies last. Quantity limits apply. Quantities limited. No rain checks except where required by law.