How do you drink wine like an Italian? It’s simple: Dolce far niente.
In Inglese that means, “pleasantly doing nothing.” Can you imagine putting aside your to-do lists and turning off your phone for a few hours to spend some time with friends? What a dream.
Italians love wine – obviously. Italy produces more wine than anywhere else in the world, and there are seemingly endless varieties that have been grown, vinified, and perfected over centuries.
But Italians love food, family, and friendship just as much. Wine is interwoven into Italian culture, right alongside pasta and lively conversation. So, to drink like an Italian, you simply have to think like an Italian. Clear your schedule, relax, and enjoy.
Take a look at how Italians enjoy their vino, and how you can recreate the experience at home.
...on the Vineyard
If you were to visit Italy – and believe us, we are dying to go – you should spend at least one day at a vineyard. There are many to choose from.
Italians like to know where their food and their wine comes from. By walking down rows of grapevines and hearing about how the winemaker works their magic, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the wine that will eventually end up in your glass.
Speaking of drinking, cantina sociale are “social cellars” or wineries where you can get wine on tap – like, straight from the cask. If you bring your own bottle, you can buy some vino-to-go for a steal.
To replicate this experience without the transatlantic flight, visit a local spot that serves wine on tap and talk to the bartender about where it came from, or you could simply pour a glass at home to go with a leisurely lunch. If you can’t be under the Tuscan sun, sitting out on your deck with a glass of Italian wine is the next best thing.
...at a Sidewalk Cafe
Perhaps the most quintessential part of drinking like an Italian is the aperitivo. For the uninitiated, this wonderful custom is sort of like a city-wide happy hour – in Rome and pretty much every city in the country. This pre-dinner chat and sip usually lasts from about 5-8pm.
Picture it: You leave work when the sun is still out. You stroll to an outdoor cafe with your friends. You enjoy a fizzy drink and some salty, crunchy snacks over several hours of good conversation before heading to dinner. Could you ask for anything more?
An aperitivo is usually a sparkling, low ABV drink like Prosecco or something slightly stronger made with Aperol or Campari. While Italians may enjoy some wine or a liqueur before dinner, they wouldn’t have more than two drinks. This casual social celebration is more about connecting with friends and enjoying some good sips and eats than about drinking for drinking sake.
If the clock strikes 5 and you’d like to enjoy an aperitivo at home, simply pour some fizzy drinks and make these snacks, like marinated olives, crostini, or fried meatballs.
In Italy – whether at home or at a restaurant – where there is dinner, there is wine. It’s meant to enhance the taste of the food and it’s considered an integral part of the meal – not a fancy treat. That’s why wine is surprisingly inexpensive, and the “house wine” at an Italian restaurant is probably quite good.
The main pairing rule observed by Italians is “what grows together, goes together.” In Italy, you’d drink a local wine with the local specialty – like Tuscany’s Steak Florentine with Chianti, or Sicily’s couscous al pesce with Nero D’Avola.
In Italy, it’s customary to stop drinking when you stop eating – not altogether, of course. The digestivo is still to come. But Italians won’t finish the red wine on the table after they finish their secondo (or main course).
When you’re enjoying Italian cuisine at home – whether you spent the afternoon stirring a pot of sauce like your Italian nonna or you ordered takeout – consider where the dish originates and choose a wine from the same locale.
After a meal, it’s customary to enjoy an after-dinner drink, or digestivo. Italians will often reach for the dark, bittersweet liqueur amari – which is thought to aid with digestion – or another liqueur like grappa (a fragrant brandy) or limoncello (a sweet and citrusy liqueur). You could order these liqueurs in a glass or in a cup of coffee – or, as the Italians say it, caffè corretto.
Italians typically enjoy some fruit and nuts after dinner – unless it’s a holiday, of course. On Christmas and Easter, you know cake is coming at the end of the meal.
After your Italian meal at home, simply pour yourself a small glass of your preferred liqueur and make a light fruit salad.
In Vino Finito
In Italy, wine is joy. And even though we may not be in Italy, you can still drink wine like an Italian! When you spend a day enjoying wonderful wine, delicious food, and the company of friends, you can expect to have sweet dreams about pasta twirling and vino swirling.