The Italian country side is covered with fields of crops and abundance of nature
Get a close-up look at not only how wine is made, but also a look into the culture, history, and pride behind it.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Lady Photo

Why You Need to Experience Italy's Wine Country

Vacationing on Exquisite Vino and Heavenly Views

A glass of Chianti wine in late afternoon sunshine in an Italian piazza is pure pleasure. You will probably sample your fair share of wine while traveling through Italy, but to really get a taste of the history and culture surrounding vino, go straight to the source and do a winery tour.

If Italy is on your list of European travel destinations, ensure you make time in your itinerary to visit the wine regions while you are there. Here’s all you need to know about taking an Italy wine tour.

Why Take a Tour

By taking a tour of Italian wineries, you will get a close-up look at not only how wine is made, but also a slice (or glass) of culture, history and pride.

On top of that, wineries in Italy tend to be found in the most scenic places imaginable. From castles to fishing villages to rolling hills, wineries are set in picturesque landscapes that seem to capture the essence of romantic beauty.

It’s worth doing a tour for the scenic factor alone.

Then there’s the food. Even if you are not a wine enthusiast, it’s hard to resist the allure of homemade Italian cuisine served in enchanting surrounds. Touring vineyards is an activity sure to please anyone who enjoys the finer things in life and wants to experience the benefits of food travel.

You can plan your whole trip around specific wineries in Italy, or just aim for the main attractions and add in some vineyards along the way — no matter where you are in the land of Pisa and pizza, you won’t be far from some grape vines.

Tours range from a few hours to several days, making the most of generous Italian hospitality in the wineries that open their doors to visitors.

The winery estates are often rustic and traditional, outlined with rolling hills and woodland, so be sure to take your camera.

The Regions

Viticulture is prevalent in most parts of Italy. The wines produced vary greatly by region, however, with different grapes and growing conditions changing what ends up in the bottle.

The three major regions producing the highest quality drinking wines (as opposed to the low-quality table or cooking wines in some areas) are Tuscany, Veneto and Piedmont. These broader areas are good places to start when selecting a wine tour.

Veneto is great for a white wine called soave, made from the grape Garganega. It is a rich white that is similar to chardonnay.

Take a trip to Tuscany if you love red wines — some of the most famous red wine in the area comes out of Chianti. The region is also well known for famous vintners such as Castello Banfi, Biondi-Santi and Tenuta San Guido.

The Nebbiolo grape is grown in Piedmont, producing lightly colored red wines with high tannin and acidity. Piedmont is an especially romantic autumn destination for couples so be sure to visit in time to see the changing leaves and experience the Novara Jazz Festival.

Umbria, Abruzzo and Puglia also produce fantastic wines in stunning surroundings.

The Wines

There are around 350 Italian wine varieties. No one knows how many different kinds of grapes are grown in Italy, but it is rumored to be more than 2,000.

These numbers make Italian wine hard to get your head around. As well as learning the different grape varieties, you will have to familiarize yourself with many Italian words. As a result, taking a tours of wineries in Italy is a great way to boost your Italian vocabulary!

Some of the wines to add to your list to try are Dolchetto d’Alba Barolo, Barbareso (from Piedmont), Chianti Classico and Brunello (Tuscany) and Amarone (Veneto).

Winery tours are as much about the overall experience as the individual wines though, so if you are unfamiliar with the many different names, or if your wine knowledge only goes as far as distinguishing whites from reds, don’t worry — you will still have a wonderful time.

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The Food

Your winery tour in Italy is as much about local produce and dishes as it is wine. You can expect to sample wines straight from the cellar, paired with selections of cheeses, olive oils and local delicacies that are a source of pride.

The pairings are always perfect, so you get the full flavors of the region.

If nibbles aren’t enough, most vineyards also have a restaurant on the grounds, offering multi-course meals that are matched to the wines they produce.

The Tours

There are a few options for taking wine tours in Italy, depending on your personal preference, budget and time.

You can sign up for tours that last for several days that will take you to three or four different vineyards. These kinds of tours typically include all of your accommodation, meals and transport, and focus on a slow pace that allows you to fully savor the wine, lavish meals, views and historic villas you sleep in.

They are easy to organize in advance and you will most likely also have a guide so you can pepper them with questions. These tours are for the wine lovers who want an immersive experience and who aren’t worried about cost.

If you don’t have the budget for a multi-day tour, you can choose a day tour to a few wineries, or even an afternoon at just one. This involves a visit to the winery, the grounds, usually an explanation of the history of the vineyard and anything special about it, and then a meal with wine pairings.

For lower budget trips, you can still explore vineyards, meet vintners, and sample local wines by arranging a visit directly with a vineyard. You can call ahead to find out if they run tastings and what the times and prices are.

Alternatively, you can often find out about tours by visiting local tourist information centers; they can point you toward smaller vineyards that may not necessarily be online. For these do-it-yourself tours you will need a rental car to get around — some of the best vineyards are the hardest to get to.

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