Varieties of Grapes Known for Italian Wines

Italy produces some of the world’s most beautiful varietal wine, made entirely or majorly from a particular grape.

With over 350 native wine grape varieties growing across 20 wine regions, Italy is home to sufficient species of grapes beyond your understanding.

Over 21 red wine grape varieties from Italy top the list of the world’s best red wine grape species. Four grapes in the list are the most important due to even dissemination across Italy and wine quality they produce.

Here’re the top four grapevine varieties grown in Italy for making premium red wine:


Top 4 Wine Grape Varieties with Origins in Italy

  1. Sangiovese


This indigenous Sangiovese is the most popular and grown red grape variety in Italian vineyards. Although it grows in various regions across Italy, the grape is commonly used for red wine production in Umbria, Tuscany, and other central areas.

The grape is used in wines such as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti, and Super-Tuscan. The grapes are used as the only variety in preparing Brunello di Montalcino wines.


Other grape varieties often used with the grape species include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Canaiolo grape
  • Merlot


Sangiovese grapes are also available in sub-varieties such as Sangiovese Grosso and clones, ranging in quality. The red wine grapes have the following characteristics:

  • High acidity
  • Medium color intensity
  • Cherries and herbs flavors and aromas
  • Firm tannin


  1. Barbera


Over two decades ago, Barbera was the most popular wine grape in Italy before Sangiovese taking over. It’s grown all over Italy, but Piedmont is home to the finest wines made from this grape variety.


The grape lacks tannin, making it a unique red variety. Its characteristics include:

  • Spicy, red-fruit flavors and aromas, especially in young wines
  • High acidity
  • Deep color
  • Low tannin
  • Refreshing


It produces the finest blended and unblended red wines


  1. Nebbiolo


Grown in the piedmont region, the Nebbiolo grape variety is a native Italian grape used to produce the country’s best red wines, Barbaresco and Barolo, including other less known wines.


Nebbiolo wines are highly acidic, full-bodied, with medium color intensity and tannin markings. The vividly pure flavors and aromas range from herbal (camphor, mint, and anise) and strawberry fruity to earthy (white truffles, mushrooms, and tar) and floral.


However, the flavors and aromas of red wines produced from this grape vary based on the specific vineyard where it’s grown.


The grapes can produce both decade-long wines that take several years to mature and young-drinking wines. Although the grapes are barely blended with other varieties, Bonarda and Barbera are likely partners.


  1. Aglianico


Grown in Southern Italy, this grape variety thrives in Basilicata and Campania regions. It originated from Greece about a thousand years ago. Used to produce Aglianico del Vulture and Taurasi wines, the red grapes also grow in the following areas:

  • Puglia
  • Molise
  • Lazio
  • Calabria


Despite producing some of Italy’s finest red wines, the production of the grapes is relatively low. However, it produces powerful, dark-red wines of top quality.