Italy just might make the best red wines in the world. From the red wine of the Kings in the North, to everyone’s beloved Chianti in Tuscany, down to volcanic Nero d’Avola in the South, there are so many interesting and delicious Italian red wine types to discover.

But perhaps the reason we love red Italian wine so much is that it’s more than just wine. Each bottle holds not just a liquid, but a story of terroir, passion, and generations of winemaking expertise.

If you’re curious to uncork the secrets behind Italy’s most iconic red wines, and find out what to order when you’re in the land of la dolce vita, you’re in the right place. So, pour yourself a glass, and let’s embark on a sensory voyage through the enchanting realm of red wines of Italy.

How to order red wine in Italian?

First things first – you’ll want to look out for vini rossi on your menu! If you’d like to order a glass or a bottle, this is how you say it:

 

  • Vorrei un calice di vino rosso: I would like a glass of red wine
  • Vorrei una bottiglia di vino rosso: I would like a bottle of red wine
italian red wine

What are the best Italian red wine regions?

As mentioned in our Italian white wine article, every region of Italy grows wine including red grapes. Our favorite regions for red personally are Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, and Puglia – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t thirst quenching popular Italian red wine in other regions!

For ‘international’ wines like cabernet sauvignon, syrah, pinot noir (nero in Italy), and merlot you can’t beat choosing Northern Italian red wines such as those made in Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Tuscany is the other region that makes really fantastic Italian red wine blends using these grapes. 

For the best Northern Italian red wine however, you’d be hard pressed to beat Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont. Veneto also produce the outstanding and high alcohol Amarone. Central Italy is home to Chianti Classico, Super Tuscans and Brunello in Tuscany. Whilst the best Southern Italian red wine is Puglia’s Primitivo (Zifandel in the US) or Sicily’s Nero d’Avola. 

What are the main types of Italian red wine?

Northern Italian red wine

  • Piedmont: Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera
  • Veneto: Bardolino, Amarone and Valpolicella
  • Emilia Romagna: Sangiovese and Lambrusco

Central Italy

  • Tuscany: Chianti Classico and Super Tuscans
  • Umbria: Sagrantino
  • Abruzzo: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Southern Italian red wine

  • Puglia: Primitivo
  • Sicily: Etna Rosso, Nero d’Avola
italian red wine types

The best red wine from Italy to swirl, swish and sip

Here’s our 101 breakdown of some of the best red Italian wine to look out for! It’s not an exhaustive list, but a selection of red wine from Italy that we think you will enjoy.

1. Chianti Classico 

Let’s start with one of the most well-known Italian red wine from Tuscany – Chianti Classico. Made with Sangiovese grapes that have grown in the region since Etruscan times, the Chianti Classico DOCG is generally considered to be the very best when it comes to wine in this area. It dates back to 1716, when the Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici declared the appellation as Chianti Classico.

It is always a red wine with a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and maximum 20% of other red grapes and usually medium bodied with classic flavors of cherry, violet, herbs, spice and earthiness.

It’s really easy to spot a Chianti Classico thanks to the sweet black rooster or gallo nero emblem on its bottles that evoke a legend that says roosters were used to resolve a border dispute between Siena and Florence (who were always at war). The black rooster was the symbol of Florence, while the white one represented Siena.

  • Color: ruby red
  • Style: great food wine
  • Flavor: cherry, cinnamon, violet, leather, tobacco

2. Italian red wine Brunello

Still in Tuscany, we journey south to the Val d’Orcia which is a beautiful area to discover on vacation. Here they use Sangiovese grapes to create the spectacular Brunello di Montalcino. This is a really special wine that takes around 50 months before you can even drink a bottle with 2-3 years of aging! Thanks to the long production time, you can expect to pay more for Brunello than a Chianti Classico.

  • Color: Deep ruby red
  • Style: Full bodied and great with food
  • Flavor: Leather, tobacco, very good tannins and mineral finish

3. Italian red wine Barolo

Oft described as the absolute KING of Italian red wine is Barolo! Grown in a tiny area of Le Langhe wine region, this tannic red wine uses the nebbiolo grape. Expect intense tannins that soften with age and a long finish. An entertaining story for you – Barolo is actually about 50 years older than Barbaresco and was named after a noblewoman, the Marchesa de Barolo, in the 1850’s. Look out for Palazzo Barolo in the center of Turin! This wine pairs perfectly with Piedmont’s meat heavy cuisine. 

  • Color: translucent ruby red to orange hued with age
  • Style: Full bodied and intense
  • Flavor: Violet, red roses, liquorice, spices, tobacco and leather

 

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4. Italian red wine Barbaresco

Perhaps not as valued as Piedmont’s Barolo, but a star in its own right is the wonderful Italian red wine Barbaresco. This Italian red wine made from nebbiolo grapes required less time aging (2 years compared to Barolo’s 3 years) and generally has softer tannins upon release thanks to the difference in soil where it is grown.

Similar to Barolo it is also made in the Langhe wine region and pairs perfectly with Piedmont’s white truffles. 

  • Color: Delicate red
  • Style: Intense red wine good with food
  • Flavor: Spices, red fruits, high tannins, long finish

Special Offer for Italian Wine Tales Readers

Our friends at Barolo Wine Club have a special offer on their incredible Piemontese wines just for Italian Wine Tales readers. You can enjoy 5% off any purchase of their wines by entering the code WINE TALES at checkout.

red wine from italy

5. Italian red wine Amarone

Italian amarone red wine is very alcoholic and full-bodied but beloved by many! What sets Amarone apart is its unique production method – the grapes to make this wine are layed out and left to dry before being pressed. This intensified the flavors and increases the sugar content (and hence the alcohol!) giving them their signature full-bodied richness, deep ruby hue, and complex layers of dried fruit, dark chocolate, and a subtle hint of spice.

The grapes used in this wine are Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. It pairs really well with gamey meats! 

  • Color: Deep red 
  • Style: Intense and rich
  • Flavor: dried fruit, dark chocolate, and a subtle hint of spice
primitivo wine

6. Primitivo Italian red wine

If you’re looking for Italian red wine in Puglia, you can’t miss Primitivo. It’s known as Zinfandel in the US, but actually the same grape. This is fast becoming one of Italy’s most prized red wines and was awarded the best wine in 2023 by Taste Atlas! 

Try a sip of Primitivo, and feel yourself instantly on a journey through the landscapes that have nurtured its vines, capturing the essence of southern Italy’s warmth and vibrancy in every glass.

  • Color: Deep purple 
  • Style: fruity and full bodied
  • Flavor: dark berries, plum, and often a hint of black pepper

Want to learn more about Pugliese wines? Join Liv on a 7 day tour in Puglia with Untold Italy. We’ll show you the highlights of Puglia and visit Bari, Lecce, Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Martina Franca, Grottaglie, Matera and more. We’ll wine and dine our way around this gorgeous region while enjoying unforgettable experiences together. Find out more now!

7. Italian red wine Lambrusco

Lambrusco got a bad rep for many years as a cheap, sugary wine – but that’s because we weren’t drinking the good stuff! It’s best drunk young and you should look out for high quality Lambrusco di Sorbara when selecting yours. This sparkling red wine should be drunk with cured meats and cheeses, just like they do in the Emilia region. 

  • Color: Sparkling ruby red
  • Style: Bubbly, fun and perfect for aperitivo and with cured meats
  • Flavors: red berries, black cherry, and a hint of floral notes

8. Italian red wine Barbera d’Alba

One of our favorites for everyday winter drinking is a glass of Barbera d’Alba from Piedmont.  What truly sets Barbera d’Alba apart is its incredible versatility—ranging from fresh and approachable to more structured and age-worthy renditions. We love its smooth tannins that make it really easy to drink (but not dead in the glass either!). 

  • Color: ruby red
  • Style: fresh and easy drinking but you can find aged fuller bodied versions 
  • Flavor: ripe cherries, plums, and often a hint of spice
barbera wine

9. Italian red wine Valpolicella

Traveling to the Amalfi Coast? You can’t leave without trying the delicious wine that’s made right there! This style of wine making is so hard (up the sides of cliffs and impossible to use machinery) that it’s called ‘heroic winemaking’. Think white flowers and exotic fruits whilst you’re sipping. It’s at its best when young.

 

  • Color: straw yellow
  • Style: fresh and easy to drink
  • Flavor: ripe citrus, tropical fruits, and delicate florals

10. Italian red wine Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Don’t confuse this with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Tuscan wine made from Sangiovese and other grapes. This is the famous wine of the Marche region with a medium body, soft tannins and high acidity. Try it with hearty pastas and grilled meats. If you’re a first time drinker of this one, it’s comparable to a Sangiovese wine. 

 

  • Color: garnet red
  • Style: juicy and fruity wine
  • Flavor: wild cherry, blackberry, boysenberry, and plum

11. Super Tuscans

Calling our international grape lovers! This is for you if you love a cabernet sauvignon, merlot and/or cabernet franc. Super Tuscans became famous in the 80s when a group of ‘radical’ Tuscan winemakers said screw the rules about Chianti, we want to blend international varities with Sangiovese. The result was the legendary Super Tuscan italian red blend wine. Think rich complexity, opulent aromas, and a remarkable depth of flavor.

  • Color: ruby to deep red
  • Style: full bodied
  • Flavor: ripe dark fruit, spices, and well-integrated oak

12. Sagrantino from Umbria

If you like your wines tannic, big and bold, then Sagrantino is for you! Made from the indigenous to Umbria Sagrantino grape, this red wine has huge aging potential thanks to its big tannins. With an inky dark hue that hints at its intense nature, expect the flavor of dark berries, dried fruits, and often a touch of exotic spices in the glass.

  • Color:  dark ruby red
  • Style: big, bold wine perfect with meat
  • Flavor: dark berries, dried fruits and exotic spices

Want to learn more about Umbrian wines? Join Liv on a 7 day tour in Umbria with Untold Italy. We’ll show you the highlights of this gorgeous central Italian region whilst wining and dining our way around. Find out more now!

13. Nero d’Avola

In the volcanic soils of Sicily, delicious things grow! Nero d’Avola is a very alcoholic wine usually over 15% alcohol thanks to the intense sunlight the grapes receive during the year. If you’re a fan of a Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, you will love this wine. More and more we are also seeing wineries begin to make fresher versions with less intense tannins too.

 

  • Color: ruby red – violet
  • Style: Perfect with meat courses
  • Flavor: blackberries and sour cherries, sweet spices and hummus, mineral

Want to learn more about Sicilian wines? Join Liv on an 8 day tour in West Sicily with Untold Italy. We’ll show you the highlights of the West Coast whilst wining and dining our way around. Find out more now!

14. Bardolino

Headed to Lake Garda on your Italian trip? Then try a glass of Bardolino wine!  This red Italian wine is made using Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes and has an elegant, easy-drinking appeal we love.  This wine’s light to medium body has a great acidity and is a really good aperitivo or first course red wine to try.  Enjoy sipping as you gaze out over Lake Garda’s beautiful shores.

  • Color: ruby red
  • Style: elegant
  • Flavor: fresh red berries, cherries, and delicate floral notes

15. Aglianico

From the deep south comes Agliancio wine. Hailing from Basilicata and Campania, this is the red wine to drink if you’re in Matera, Amalfi, Naples or somewhere in between. If you’re a Syrah lover, we think you’ll really enjoy this full bodied intense wine. 

 

  • Color: purple
  • Style: Fruity and spicy
  • Flavor: liquorice, leather, dried roses, white pepper, violets and prunes

Discovered something new in our red wines of Italy guide? Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite! Prefer white wines? Read our guide below!