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pouring red wine

Taste Wine as the Italians Do: Wine Tasting Tips

Posted by Megan DeAngelo on April 1 2016

Wine is an integral part of culture and identity for Italians. You might even say that they bleed purple!

While you may have been on wine tasting tours at home, we offer some ideas for wine tasting while in Italy. Remember that the anticipation of sampling it is half the fun, and we’re going to let you in on how serious Italian wine drinkers evaluate their wines.

The Exquisite Art of Wine Tasting

There is something special about seeing the grapes on the vine, and the wondrous complexities of the process, before tasting. You will want to see how it’s made.

Many wineries will offer tasting tours for larger groups, but another option is to do an individual, more personalized tour. No matter which option you choose, these tastings will introduce you to unique wineries and what makes each one different from the next.

While you need not get a PhD on the subject, there is a certain style, technique and artistry for tasting wine. Tasting Italian wines comes in three parts: sight, smell and taste.

How Heavy is it?

color of the wine

For wine tasting purposes, a wine glass should be poured to a little less than one-third full.

It has been said that wine is collected sunlight held together by water. You can look straight down into the glass and then tilt it slightly if you wish. This allows you to see the full range of colors present in the wine. Is the color delicate or dense? Transparent or opaque?

You can look at it through the side of the glass against a white background, which allows you to see how clear the wine is. You can also tilt the glass, which thins the wine and allows you to determine its weight.

Lastly, there is a swirl motion where you roll the wine softly around the glass. This technique is used to reveal how heavy the wine is in alcohol content.

Inhale the Aroma

smelling the aroma of the wine

This is the part where you determine the aroma of the wine, or “bouquet.”  This involves tilting the wine glass, lifting to the lips and then giving a sniff. After you’ve done this you’ll want to swirl the wine in the glass and sniff it again. The wine must “breathe.”

Inhale the aroma of the wine. Generally, wines are an eclectic mix of fruits, spices, and herbs, often having a strong, distinct aroma.

Always use short sniffs, not long drawn-out ones. Long breaths weaken your ability to pick up the subtle aromas of each wine. 

Now comes the best part—tasting the wine.

Drink it Slowly, Savoring the Taste

tasting wine

The key is taking small sips rather than gulps. If you’ve done your sniffing phase, you’ll likely encounter the same taste of the aromas you’ve detected.

The flavors of a wine will hit the palate in specific areas. Sweetness will be detected at the tip of the tongue. Tannins in a wine are usually picked up in the middle of the tongue and can be honed on by “chewing” the wine a little to really pick up its taste. You can taste the acids on the sides of the mouth, and some will be drier than others.

Find out which wines we recommend for any wine lover's trip to Italy.

Overall, the sweetness, acidity, tannins and alcohol level cannot generally be detected before tasting. However, the sight and smelling phases are important parts of any authentic wine tasting experience.

Expertise not Required

Wine tasting is a serious endeavor in Italy. The most seasoned wine lovers will be able to tell which wine they’re drinking and can even name its origins just by following the sight, smell and tasting steps.

However, remember to just have fun. Many of us fear encountering a wine snob so we tend to keep our thoughts to ourselves for fear of looking foolish. Wine is a vast and complicated subject, but it should be pleasurable above all.

Think of wine as art. The main consideration is: Do you like it?


Get started planning your next group vacation to Italy by downloading our free Planning Guide Your Italian Vacation: The Ultimate Group Travel Guide.

Topics: Insider, Italian Wine, italian culture

Megan DeAngelo

Written by Megan DeAngelo

Travel Consultant BellaVista Tours