In What Order Should You Taste Italian Wine?

Who knew that there is an ideal order in which to drink your Italian wines?

It’s certainly not something that most people think about. For the majority, drinking an Italian wine is as simple as picking up a bottle, appreciating its aromas, and then enjoying the drink with friends. All of this talk of order doesn’t appear all that relevant in the average setting.

And it probably isn’t.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass or three of wine without ever thinking about what order you should be drinking wine in. But if you want to dive a bit deeper into the world of wine, and especially if you want to go to tasting events, knowing the order to drink will lead to you having a better experience. This also applies if you’re going to have friends around and want to drink a variety of different wines. Again, knowing the ideal order means you get the full experience without having to worry about one wine overpowering or diminishing the experience you get with another.

So, we’re going to look at the ideal order for drinking wine.

But before we do, a couple of caveats. The first is that you can, and should, enjoy your Italian wine however you want to. Sticking to these loose rules to the point where you’re not enjoying your wine is not the intention. This is just a guideline for people who want to experience wine a little differently.

Second, these rules tend to go out of the window when food is introduced into the equation. In those cases, pairing the right wine with your food takes precedence over drinking different types of wine in a specific order.

With that being said, let’s dig into the order in which you’re supposed to drink Italian wine.

White Before Red

Let’s start with the basics.

If you know you’re going to drink both white and red wine, going with the white wine first is usually the best option. That’s because white wines tend to have lighter and more refreshing tastes. Deeper reds will usually overpower a white wine’s best qualities because reds tend to linger on the tongue for longer. As such, a sip of white after a sip of red means the white will get influenced by the taste of the red that’s still on your palate. You’ll lose the subtleties of the lighter whites because they’ll be overpowered by the red.

There is one exception to this rule.

You can use Italian white wine as a palate cleanser between samples of red. Though doing this means you’re accepting that you won’t get the most out of the white wine.

Dry Before Sweet

Sweet wines have an interesting effect on dry wines. If you start with a sweet wine, you’ll tend to find that any dry wine you drink afterward feels more acidic than it should. This can be used to your advantage, especially if you believe the acidity level of your dry wine is not as high as you’d like it to be. But generally speaking, this higher acidity alters the taste of a dry wine to the point where you can detect little else about the drink.

As such, consume your dry wines first before wrapping up with the sweet. This actually tracks well with most meals, where the dry wine will suit the main meal and a sweet one is better suited for dessert.

Light Before Heavy

Coming back to a concept we touched on when talking about drinking white before red, you should also go with a light wine before you sample a heavy wine. Again, the reasoning is the same – light wines get overpowered by heavy ones. If you go with the heavy wine first, its aftertaste will linger on your tongue and affect your experience with the light wine.

This rule applies in all cases. For example, let’s say you have a Pinot Noir and a Chianti. Generally speaking, the Chianti is going to be the heavier of the two wines. As such, it should also be the one that you drink last. Otherwise, you’re not going to get the experience you could have gotten out of the Pinot.

Youth Before Age

Why do people age wines?

They do it because the ageing process tends to lend a wine a deeper level of complexity than it has when it’s young. New notes come to the fore and interplay with the dominant notes that are already present in the young version of the wine. And that complexity should clue you in to why you should drink aged wines after young ones.

Again, it’s all about strength.

Older wines are more complicated, richer, and stronger than younger wines. That means drinking an old wine first means that a young wine’s qualities may get lost in the shuffle.

Fortified Wines Are Always Last

And last but not least, we have fortified wines.

These types of wines are generally much sweet and have higher alcohol volumes than normal wines. As such, we go with the dry versus sweet approach here, except we expand it to include all types of wines when compared to fortified wines. Take these wines as a dessert on their own or to accompany especially rich sweets. But do not drink them ahead of a regular bottle of wine unless you want the dominating flavours of the fortified wine to completely overwhelm your other wines.

Get The Order Right

As we mentioned at the top of the article, the best order to drink wine in is whatever order works best for you. If you don’t agree with any of these rules, there is nothing that’s forcing you to follow them. The key with all Italian wine is to enjoy what you enjoy, even if others tell you to enjoy it in a different way.

Still, by following these rules, you may find that you get a little more out of the experience of drinking certain types of wines than you have in the past. Of course, you need a good collection of Italian wine before you can experiment with any of these rules. And that’s where we come in. Xtrawine’s extensive collection gives you the chance to try all of these rules to see which ones work for you.


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