Ask two people to describe a traditional Italian dinner table. While their answers might differ in terms of what kind of food is on the plate and what color the tablecloth is, there will probably be one thing in common: a glass of wine next to the dinner plate.

 

A wine glass always has a place at the Italian dinner table | Photo via Dinner Series

A wine glass always has a place at the Italian dinner table | Photo via Dinner Series

 

From the slightly sweet fizz of a flute of Prosecco, to the full-bodied richness of a glass of Chianti, wine is integral part of an Italian meal. Instead of being perceived as an additional luxury, wine has historically been considered another form of food. In part, this was because wine was cheap and widely available making it an excellent filling addition to other calorie-rich basics such as bread and olive oil.

 

Grapes for red wine | Photo: Staisey Benelli

Italian grapes used for red wine | Photo: Staisey Benelli

 

Today red wine is valued more for its antioxidants than its calories and it’s much more expensive than a glass of cola, but it remains an important part of the Italian lifestyle. So, what’s the best way to enjoy a glass as an Italian does?  Here are 5 simple tips that will add some Italian flavor and style to your next glass of wine.

 

Red wine at the dinner table | Photo: Edoardo Tacconi

Red wine at the dinner table | Photo: Edoardo Tacconi

Try wine that’s not in the bottle.

Cantina San Donaci | Photo: Fabio Ingrosso

Wine pumps at Cantina San Donaci | Photo: Fabio Ingrosso

 

There’s a little secret hidden in the cellars of Italy’s wine-producing regions: wine on tap. Buying wine in bulk or from the cask has a long tradition that has never really spread beyond Italy.  Bring your own glass or plastic bottle and pay by the liter. Despite what you might think, this is one of the best ways to get a high quality wine for an affordable price.

 

Visit a vineyard.

 

Vineyard | Photo: Staisey Benelli

Vineyard | Photo: Staisey Benelli

 

A barrel of Italian Barolo | Photo: Annabelle Orozco

A barrel of Italian Barolo in the cellar | Photo: Annabelle Orozco

 

Italians like to know where their food comes from and with wine it isn’t any different. You don’t need to know all the complicated vocabulary to begin to appreciate the basics of a glass of wine, but eat a grape straight from the vine or taste two varietals in the cellar of a winemaker and gain a new appreciation for this complex drink.

 

Don’t mix it with anything else.

Prosecco | Photo: Angelo Amboldi

Prosecco | Photo: Angelo Amboldi

 

Winemakers work very hard to create a balanced, drinkable wine. In deference to the art of creating wine, a glass should always be enjoyed without the addition of ice, juice or garnishes. It’s the part of the Italian tradition of respecting the simple beauty of a genuine product.

 

Don’t drink sweeter wines with dinner.

Sweet Italian Vin Santo is perfect with a dessert such as Cantucci cookies

Sweet Italian Vin Santo is perfect with a dessert such as Cantucci cookies

 

Different wines are produced for different purposes. A sweet wine such as a Marsala or a Passito should be enjoyed after dinner.

Drink to good health.

wine-leana

Enjoy a glass of wine with your friends | Photo: Leana

 

Most Italians will tell you that the only thing other than food that will make a glass of wine taste better is good company. So wait until everyone has been served, raise a glass, look your companions in the eyes as you touch glasses and say Salute! before taking your first sip.

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