Hand holding up wine glass with a small amount of red wine. There are wine bottles stacked and displayed behind it.
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Where To Drink Wine In Italy – Tips On Wine Tasting In Italy From A Local

Last updated on June 22nd, 2024

Chances are that if you are coming to Italy you plan on spending some of your time drinking wine. Why not make the best of your Italian experience by living just as the locals do – with a glass of wine in one hand (and usually something to eat in the other)!

I have been living in Tuscany for over 10 years, where some of the very best of Italian wine is produced. I am lucky enough to have easy access to locally made Italian wine. I usually enjoy it at home, but I also appreciate tasting Italian wines while out and about with friends and family. After years of buying Italian wine and visiting countless wineries, I am confident in sharing my best tips to get the most out of your time sampling and enjoying wine in Italy!

In this article, I will go over:

  • the best places to drink wine in Italy
  • what each venue offers in terms of tastings and food pairings
  • what to expect from each type of place

Sample Wines in an Enoteca

Entrance to an enoteca in Montepulciano, Italy. You can see displays of wine bottles inside the doorway and there are also wine bottles displayed on a shelf to the left of the door, outside.

Best For: A wide selection from a curated wine list

An enoteca (plural form enoteche) is the equivalent of a wine bar. Its primary job is to offer a wide selection of open wines that you can try by the glass and then purchase by the bottle. 

The staff at an enoteca should have a pretty good knowledge of the wines they are selling, especially any wines from the area. If you try one one and would like to purchase similar wines, the staff should be confident in suggesting similar wines for you. 

Read More: For a comprehensive guide to buying wine in Italy read Where to Buy Wine in Italy.

Cheese and jams and finger foods on a wooden cutting board on a table. You can also see a water glass and a wine glass.

Usually they are casual yet elegant. Most have some kind of menu with small bites and snacks such as cheese and charcuterie boards or crostini to pair with your wines. Enoteche are most popular during aperitivo starting from around 6:00 pm but they generally hold hours from around 11:00 am to 9:00 pm without a closing lunch break in the afternoon. 

Most enoteche have you try wines by the full glass while only some will offer a series of smaller tastings with a set price. 

For my favorite enoteche in Montepulciano, read My Top 5 Wine Bars in Montepulciano. If you’re on your way to Firenze, read My Favorite Wine Bars (Enoteche) in Florence – and pick up a bottle to bring home as a souvenir!

Try Wines at a Winery

Three wine glasses with small pours of red wine on a white table. Behind the glasses are three bottles of red wine. One the right is a blue glass.

Best For: Memorable wine tasting experiences

A winery or cantina as well call it in Italy is one of the best places to try regional wine from a single producer. If you would like to try wine at a winery, it’s wise to pre-book your visit and tasting.

Many Italian wineries are small and don’t have the resources and staff to offer tastings without a booking. You may get lucky and be able to taste the wines if you stop by, but this is usually only if they don’t have another event, tasting or tour already booked. 

Entrance to an enoteca in Montepulciano, Italy. Woman in red apron standing in front of arched entrance. Plants and wine bottles decorate the area in front of the shop.

Signing up for a wine tasting is one of my favorite ways to really learn about a regional wine or a specific wine (such as Brunello or Chianti Classico, for example. The staff will walk you through each wine and explain the characteristics of each, helping you to better understand what you do and do not like in terms of wine and vintages. 

To learn more about wine tasting, specifically in Tuscany, read Tips for Wine Tasting in Tuscany.

You can read about my tasting experiences at:

Drink Italian Wines at a Restaurant

Red wine glass and bottle on a table at a restaurant outdoors in Italy.

Best For: Foodies or visitors who would like to learn more about pairing wine with food.

Restaurants are the best places to try wine with food. It gives you an opportunity to ask about which wines go well with particular foods, ultimately increasing your knowledge about wine. 

Hopefully, after trying wine at a restaurant in Italy, you can come back home and recreate some of the local food you enjoyed with a similar wine. 

If you are unsure of what to to order, just ask your server for a suggestion, especially if you are in a restaurant with an extensive wine list. Some restaurants, such as Michelin star restaurants, will have a Sommelier to help select your wine and pair it with each course of your meal. 

You can either order wine by the bottle or by the glass at an Italian restaurant. 

Fit In: Learn How to Toast in Italian!

Taste Italian Wines at a Bar

People sitting outdoors in a colorful piazza on Lake Garda. They're drinking coffees and cocktails and chatting.

Best For: Budget friendly

While an Italian bar isn’t necessarily the best place to sample a wide variety of wines from the entire Italian peninsula, this is a great place to try a regional specialty at a low price. 

Bars, which is really an Italian cafè serving up breakfast, coffee, lunch, snacks, aperitivo and digestivo, usually like to stock what the locals are drinking. And you know what the locals are drinking? The local wine! 

Three hands clink wine glasses with white wine.

Don’t expect to find expensive or old vintages at a bar, but rather, very simple table wines from down the road. Some fancier bars will have a more curated list with a wider selection but only in larger cities

Order wine by the glass at most bars. Bottles usually are sold at fancier or larger bars. 

How To Order Wine In Italy

a glass of rose wine from side view on a white table in a restaurant with tables in background.

No matter where you are in Italy, you may want to learn some Italian basics to help you navigate menus, waitstaff or wineries. Here are some common phrases or exchanges you might hear and have when trying and ordering wine in Italy:

Buongiorno, vorrei provare un vino rosso della zone. Mi potrebbe consigliare qualcosa?
“Good Morning, I would like to try a red wine from the area. Could you suggest something?

Vorrei un bicchiere del vostro Brunello di Montalcino e un bicchiere del vostro Vermentino, per favore.
“I would like a glass of your Brunello and a glass of your Vermentino, please.”

Vorrei comprare una bottiglia del rosso che abbiamo provato da portare via, per favore. 
“I would like a bottle of the red wine that I just tried to bring home with me, please.”

Mi è piaciuto questo vino rosso. Avete un altro che mi potrebbe anche interessare?
“I very much enjoyed this red wine. Do you have another recommendation for me?”

Helpful Vocabulary For Trying Wine In Italy

Bottles of wine on wooden shelves at a wine shop in Italy.
Italian Italian PronunciationEnglish Translation
Vorrei…vohr-rehI would like…
una bottigliaoon-ah boht-tee-yeahone bottle
due bottigliedoo-eh boht-tee-yehtwo bottles
una cassaoo-nah cahs-saha case
Vorrei un bicchere di…vohr-reh oon beek-khee-eh-re dee…I would like a glass of…
Potete spedire all’estero?poh-teh-teh speh-dee-reh ahl-eh-steh-rohCan you ship abroad?
vino rossovee-noh rohs-sohred wine
vino biancovee-noh bee-ahn-kohwhite wine
vino dolcevee-noh dohl-chehsweet wine
regionale reh-joh-nah-lehregional
Quanto costa?kwahn-toh coh-stahHow much does it cost?
una scatola (di legno)oon-ah skah-toh-lah (dee leh-noh)a box (wooden)
Posso comprare?pohs-soh cohm-prah-rehMay I purchase?
Mi piacemee pee-ah-chehI like it
Non mi piacenon mee pee-ah-chehI don’t like it
Per favorepehr fah-voh-rehplease
Graziegrah-zee-ehthank you