Spotting a Good Wine – What Separates Great Italian Wines From Bad Ones?

Let’s say that you’re brand new to the world of Italian wines.

Your friends have been trying to get you to try a few vintages for years and you’ve finally caved in. 

And you love the stuff. Everything that you’ve tried so far has ignited a passion for wine in your soul and you’re ready to start your own adventure into the vast world of Italian wine.

You get a few recommendations from your friends about bottles to try and you love them too. But now, it’s time to start buying your own bottles…

And you’re lost.

You’ve gone online to do some research and you’ve realised the sheer scale of the wine industry. There’s so much information out there about different wines and producers that you feel like you’re completely overwhelmed by it all.

There are literally tens of thousands of bottles to choose from.

How on Earth do you make the right choice? All you want to find is a good wine that you can enjoy.

That’s what this article is all about. We’re going to simplify things for a minute and stop looking into the intricacies of what makes good Italian wines what they are.

Instead, we’re going to focus on the basic answers to a simple question.

How do you find a good wine?

There are a few things to look out for.

The Certification

Most countries that produce wines have special certifications that they grant to their wines. Typically, this certifications confirm that the wine was made in the appropriate region and with the correct blend of wine grapes.

In Italy, that certification comes from the DOC.

So, if you see a wine that carries the DOC label, you can feel fairly sure that it meets a certain standard. If you see the DOCG certification, that means the wine is a stellar variety that’s both harder to produce and undergoes more rigorous certification.

Now, we will complicate things a little bit by looking at the IGT certification too.

This does not mean that a wine is of bad quality. It simply means that the producers have tried something different. An IGT wine is no better or worse than a DOC wine. 

It’s just a wine that hasn’t been made based on the DOC’s strict standards.

You may actually find that an IGT wine lands on your favourites list. But if you want to feel sure that you’re getting quality, looking for the DOC label is a good place to start.

Start With White Wines

Now, this may be something of a contentious tip. And we’re definitely not saying that white wines are better than reds, or vice-versa.

We’re simply saying that it’s easier to find a white wine that suits your current tastes.

As a newbie to the world of Italian wine, it’s likely that your palette hasn’t quite caught up to all of the complexities of red wine. That may mean that you could mistakenly think that a good red wine is actually bad.

It’s not an issue with the wine so much as it is one with your tastebuds.

We recommend sticking with white wines at first before making the leap to Rosé. Give your tastebuds the chance to adapt to the more complex flavours before making the second leap to red wine.

After gaining a little experience, you’ll find that you’re much more likely to enjoy reds.

The Price

Again, this is something of a contentious point.

A low price does not mean that the wine isn’t any good. In fact, there are plenty of examples of 90+ rated wines on the Xtrawine site that you can buy for less than €10.

But what we are saying is that a slightly higher price is a reliable indicator of quality. And the reason for this is that producers simply wouldn’t be able to get away with charging more for a wine that doesn’t match the consumer’s expectations.

When your first starting out, it may be a good idea to spend a little more to feel sure that you’re getting good quality. As you learn more about wine, you’ll feel a little more able to evaluate the qualities of cheaper vintages to see if they match up to your standards.

Be Wary of Discounts

Again, a wine being discounted isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we regularly offer discounts on great vintages just to give more people a chance of trying them.

However, you do have reason to feel wary if you head into a store and see a previously-expensive wine discounted to a much lower price.

This suggests that the wine is now out of season and may not have the quality that it once had. Or, it may suggest that the wine simply isn’t worth the asking price which means that consumers have decided that it isn’t good enough.

Do a little research before stocking up. After all, you don’t want to come home with a bunch of bottles only to find that they’ve aged a little too much.

Always Go Nose First

There’s a good reason why people smell their wine before they drink it.

They’re not just trying to identify all of the notes in the bouquet, though that’s part of it and will come to you with practice.

They’re also using their noses to determine if the wine is of good quality.

For example, imagine that you’ve got a white wine that’s a little bit old. A good whiff may reveal a vinegary aroma that tells you that the wine’s gone off.

Now, imagine that you’d just taken a swig of the wine instead.

A lot of spluttering (and potentially spitting) would have followed.

Your sense of smell is very closely linked to your sense of taste. If the wine smells the part, it’s likely that it’s going to taste great too.

The Final Word

With time and experimentation, you’ll become more able to pick out the best Italian wines for you.

These tips will help you in the meantime. And if you’re still not confident, just check the ratings. Every wine on our website has a useful score out of 100. The closer the wine is to that magical 100 rating, the better it is.



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