How to Order Wine in Italy

Wine is an integral part of Italy’s rich culinary culture, and a trip through Italy’s renowned wine regions is an ever-changing landscape of flavors and aromas.

To ensure your Italian adventure is magnifico, here is a quick guide to Italian wines as well as some keywords and phrases to know when ordering.

Italian Words to Know About Wine:

vino : wine

rosso / bianco /  rosato : red / white / rosé

vino spumante : sparkling wine

vino dolce : sweet wine

vino secco : dry wine 

una bottiglia : a bottle

un bicchiere : a glass

un assaggio : a taste or sample

per favore : please

grazie : thank you

Ordering Your Wine:

“Prendo un bicchiere di (wine name), per favore.” I’ll take a glass of (wine name), please.

“Solo un bicchiere.” Just one glass.

If you want to order another glass, ask the server for “un altro” – another.

“Prendiamo una bottiglia di rossa della casa, per favore.” We’ll take a bottle of house red wine, please.

Or if you would like to order a specific bottle, say, “Prendiamo una bottiglia di (wine name), per favore.”

Once the server brings the bottle over, he or she will ask, “Chi assaggia?” Who is tasting?

The taster will look at the wine, smell the wine, and take a sip. If the wine is good, the taster will say, “Buono!”

If the wine tastes off or “corked” – indicated by a musty, wet cardboard smell or dull taste that lacks fruit – say, “Non mi piace.” I don’t like it. And the server will help you choose a different bottle.

Italian Wines to Know

Barolo and Barbaresco: Produced in the Piedmont region of northern Italy from Nebbiolo grapes, these rich, full-bodied reds age extremely well. Barbaresco is slightly lighter and has a shorter aging requirement than Barolo.

Brunello di Montalcino: Renowned Tuscan wine made completely from Sangiovese grapes. Dark in color with strong red fruit flavors and savory, herbal notes.

Chianti: World-famous Tuscan blend made with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Its tart cherry flavor and high acidity pair well with classic rich Italian dishes. 

Prosecco: Sparkling wine typically produced in the Veneto region. Enjoy a refreshing glass with appetizers to start your meal. 

Super Tuscans: A family of popular Tuscan red wines that don’t adhere to DOC and DOCG blending rules – more on that below.

DOC vs. DOCG Wines

You might see a label around the neck of an Italian wine bottle that says “DOC” or “DOCG”. These designations indicate that the wine meets certain standard qualities, including grape varieties and proportions, growing region, wine color, alcohol levels, and harvesting techniques. 

DOC stands for “Denomination of Controlled Origin” – there are about 330 Italian wines that are designated DOC. DOCG stands for “Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin”, and these wines – about 75 of them – adhere to stricter classification rules. DOCG wines must be produced in protected zones and undergo a technical and taste analysis by the Ministry of Agriculture.