Italian Wine Pronunciation Made Easy

Italian Wine Pronunciation Made Easy is designed for wine buffs, not language experts.

As you go through this section, don't forget the ultimate objective is to get more enjoyment from Italian wines. So this has to be fun. Take your time, bookmark or save a shortcut so you can come back whenever you want. Come back often as this page is the foundation of your Italian wine education. Who knows? This may even be the first step in a journey to speak Italian.

We tried to keep it simple, focusing on wine words (wines, regions, producers,food etc,) to help with pronunciation.

One note. This is a work in progress. Sorry for any incomplete items. They are coming. We are always open to ideas for improvementand will provide a feedback mechanism soon.

The section is divided into three levels:

Level 1-Bambino

This first level is for novices to the Italian language. Included is a discussion of the Italian alphabet, consonants, vowels, and the correct pronunciation.Syllable stress, so important to the Italian language, is also introduced here.These are the basics and it won't take you long to master this section.

Level 2-Ragazzo

This section is mostly dedicated to the tougher consonants.

These are consonants which have more complex pronunciation rules, like "c", "g" and "s".

As always, we focus on the combos you are most likely to come across in the Italian wine world.

Once you are through this level, you will be able to handle most wine lists easily.

Level 3- Goombah

Some of the more unusual letter combos are introduced here including what linguists refer to as "diphthongs", two vowel/one sound combos. Logically following the diphthong are triphthongs i.e three vowel combo which is basically a diphthong followed by an unstressed "i" and hiatus i.e two vowel combo pronounced separately.

Each of these levels include pronunciation text, examples and, in some instances,a short sound clip. We will continue to add these sound clips giving you more opportunities to sound out wine words.When you encounter one, just click the play button for the audio.

You will need Windows Media Player as a plug-in. If you are using a browser other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer, please click on the sound clip and follow instructions to download the plug-in for Media Player.You should have to do this only once.

Now sit back with a glass of Italian wine and have some fun.


The Italian alphabet has only 21 letters, however, those missing letters (j,k,w,x,y) can still be found in words (most often foreign words added to the Italian vocabulary and in some names), and are generally pronounced as in English. "J" is often the exception, which is silent, as in Gaja, the great wine producer from Piemonte.

First, we discuss vowels, then consonants.

Vowels - Italians use seven vowels,"a", "i", "u", open "e", closed "e", open "o", closed "o". Also there are seven sounds. Our English has only five vowels, however, there are about fifteen different sounds, so in this respect, Italian could be said to be easier than learning English.

"a" is pronounced "ah", "i" is "ee", "u" is "oo". The open "e" is pronounced as in "met" while the closed "e" is as in "may". The open "o" is pronounced as "cot" while the closed "o" is as in "both".

So its pretty much like English except for the "e" and "i".

How do you know if its an open or closed vowel when you see a word? Without taking lessons or hearing the word spoken correctly, you probably won't, so don't worry too much about it. You will be able to order wine quite nicely. Here is a summary.

Vowel Sound English Word Italian Word
a ah bat pane (bread)
e open eh bet bella (beautiful)
e closed ay base bere (to drink)
i ee beet vino (wine)
o open aw dot amore (love)
o closed oh dote Roma (Rome)
u oo coot uva (grape)

Italian vowels are pronounced in a quick fashion, no need to hold it.

Consonants- As pointed out above, the Italian alphabet does not contain j,k,w,x, or y.

The following consonants are pronounced as in English. (b,d,f,l,m,n,v,p,t,and q, which is always followed by a u).

That leaves six consonants to deal with-(c,h,g,r,s,and z). "C" and "g" pronunciations are the only complicated ones as the pronunciation depends on the vowel following. If a "c" or "g" is followed by an "e" or "i", then pronounce as a soft "c" or "g", otherwise pronounce as a hard "c" or "g". See Tougher Consonants below for more detail.

"H" is always silent as in "honor". "R" is rolled. "Z" is pretty easy, like "ts". One "z" as in "grazie" (gratseeh, thank you). "ZZ" as in "pizza". Occasionally "z" is like "ds" as in the Italian "zero".

"S" is generally pronounced like English, as in "pasta". However, if its between two vowels, as in "Pisa", pronounce like a "Z". There are more variations with "S", such as when followed by "c" that are discussed a bit later under "Tougher Consonants". In the tables below, we try to use wine words as examples such as the name of a wine, producer, region, or food.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
h (silent) honor (h)otel
qu kw quit Querceto (q always followed by u plus a vowel
r (rolled) Rosso (roll with tip of toungue by upper teeth)
s (normally) sa sit Sambuca
s (between vowels) z (ts) rose Rosato
z ts eats Lazio, zucchini, grazie
z ds zero
zz tss Abruzzo, Verduzzo

Before we progress onto the next level, a little about stress in pronunciation.

The syllable to stress is important to the Italian language however, you will do well to remember most words have the stress on the next to last syllable. Just so there are no misunderstandings, this also means the first syllable in a two syllable word. We Americans often pronounce Capri with the accent on "pri", when it really should be on the "Ca".

Some three (or more) syllable words have the stress on the first syllable. If stress is on the last syllable, the written word will have an accent mark.

There are also some words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings based on the stressed syllable. We leave that to the language instructors.

Now go back and try the pronunciation of the words above stressing the next to last syllable.

Back to Bambino?


In this level, we delve into more detail on the more difficult consonants (c,g, and s).

The Tougher Consonants-As stated above, an Italian consonant is generally pronounced like its English counterpart. Two of the primary exceptions are "c" and "g". These letters can have a hard or soft pronunciation depending on the letter following.

If the letter following the "c" or "g" is "a,o or u", then the "c or g" has a hard sound, as in "cat" or "go".

If the letter following is "e or i" the "c or g" has a soft sound, as in "chess" or "jeep". Remember, the "e" can have two sounds (eh or ay).

To get a " c or g" hard sound with the "e or i", the Italians follow the "c or g" with an "h", so you will see a lot of "che, chi, ghe, ghi". Let's look at a few examples.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
ca jah can Castelloa, Toscana
ce cheh or chay chess or chase Dolcetto, Valpolicella
ci chee cheese Ciro, Sicilia
co kah or koh cot or cone Corvo, Lambrusco
cu coot Cuvee
che keh or kay kept or case Cherubino, Marche
chi key keep Chianti, Ischia, Pinocchio
ga gah gap Gavi, Garganega
ge jeh or jay jet or jade Alto Adige
gi jee jeep Giro'
go gah or go got or gopher Golfo, Gregorio
gu goo goon Gutturnio
ghe geh or gay get or gape Ghemmi, Margherita, spaghetti
ghi gee geese Falanghina

"cc" is also common in Italian names. The same rules for "c" apply with "cc". If "cci" or "cce" pronounce as a soft "c". If "cc" is followed by a "a", 'o", or "u", pronounce as a hard c. Likewise, "cchi" produces a hard "c".

The soft "c and g" sounds with the "a", "o"", and u" require another vowel. Let's deal with that in the next level.

Other common consonant/combos of note are:

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
cc (plus i or e) cheh chew Compaccio, Lucci
cc(plus a,o,or U) ka loco Bricco, Prosecco
gli eeya million Puglia, aglio (garlic),famiglia (family)
gn nyeh canyon Romagna, Sardigna, gnocchi

"S" is also pronounced as "z" if it precedes "b,d,g,l,m,n,v,or r". You won't see many of these.

Now, if you see an "sc", the same "c" rules discussed above apply. "Sci" or "Sce" is pronounced like "sh" as in "mesh". An Italian example is "pesce". "Sc" before "a, o, u" is a hard "sc" like "scare" in English or La Scala in Italian. "Sch" with an "e or i" is pronounced like "school".

In other words, if you follow the "c" rules and the "ch" rules from above, the "s" variations are pretty easy.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
sb zb Sbarro
sca skah scat Toscana, Scarpa
sce sheh shed Scelto, pesce (fish)
sci shee sheet Scilla
sco scoh scone Lambrusco
scu skoo scoot Scuro, scusi
sche skeh or skay schedule or skate
schi skee or skay skeet Lambruschi, Schiava

For the most part, when you encounter a double consonant, just hold the sound a little longer, such as in pizza. Try it. Nebbiolo.

The occasional "J" is silent. There are a couple of famous producers with a "j" in the name. Try these keeping the "j" silent. Gaja,Jacobo.

The next section builds on those rules presented above. Master this section and you will order with confidence. Might want to get another glass of wine.

Back to Bambino?

Back to Ragazzo?


When you finish this section, you have mastered pronunciation in the Italian wine world. There is no better place to practice your new skills than your favorite Italian restaurant or wine store.

The Italians do some interesting things with vowel combos. This level introduces "diphthongs", two vowel combos and "triphthongs", three-vowel combos, but these are mostly a diphthong followed by an unstressed "i". There just aren't that many triphthongs in the wine world universe, so we focus only on those you are likely to see.

The rules regarding "c"s and "g"s learned in Level one apply here as well.

Diphthongs- The important thing to remember about diphthongs is that these two vowel combo produce a single sound. There are other two vowel combos that are pronounced separately. These combos are known as "hiatus". Identical vowels i.e. "ee" are also pronounced separately.

Diphthongs are basically a combo that includes an unstressed "i" or "u" and another vowel ("a,o,e"). A dipthong can also be an "i,u" combination. The unstressed "i" or "u" has the sound of a "y" or "w" respectively, such as in "buono" or "chiuso". Remember, the Italian alphabet doesn't have our "w" or "y", but it does have the sounds.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
ai eye lie Sassicaia,Ornellaia
au ow cow Aurora,Taurasi
ei ay pay Neive,Mezzei
eu eoo Eleusi
ia yah yank Chianti,Trebbiano,Malvasia
ie yeh yes Ciliegiolo,Piemonte
io yoh yoke Sangiovese,Grigio,Denominazione
iu yoo you Friuli,Giulio
oi oy toy
ua wah walk Quacquarini
ue weh went Querceto
ui wee week D'Acqui,Quiliano
uo woh woe Buttofruoco,Buonamico

Soft C and G with a, o, u - The following "ci_, gi_" are all soft sounds. Remember, pronounce as a single sound.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
cia chah chat Montepuciano,Vernaccia
cio choh choke
choo choose prociutto
gia jah jack Giavonni
gio joh joke Sangiovese,Grigio
giu joo juice Giuseppe

Other vowel combos-Until now, the rules were pretty clear. Language is created by linguists, so there has to be complications, exceptions, and confusion. Here are a few.

Triphthong-A triphthong consists of three vowels. The easiest way to pronounce these is to consider each a vowel followed by a diphthong.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
aia ah-yah Sassicaia,Ornellaia
aio ah-yoh Sapaio
iei ee-ay
uio oo-yoh
uoi oo-oy

Hiatus and Identical Vowels-A hiatus is a double vowel, each pronounced separately. Unfortunately, some of these combos look like the diphthong, which is pronounced as one sound. There are no hard and fast rules to determine which, so don't worry about it. As you delve more into Italian, you will pick these up.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
ae ah-eh
au ah-oo
ea eh-ah
ia ee-ah
oa oh-ah
oe oh-eh
ue oo-eh

Identical vowels, like the hiatus, are pronounced separately. with stress on the first vowel.

Letter Combo Sound English Ex Italian Wine Word
ee eh-eh
ii ee-ee
oo oh-oh

Missing Letters, Apostrophes

Sometimes the final vowel in an Italian word or the first vowel in a name is dropped and often replaced with an apostrophe. Just think of it as a smooth transition to the next word or syllable in your pronunciation.

That's enough. Master these and practice, practice, practice. The rest of this site is dedicated to learning all about Italian wines and the enjoyment that comes with them.

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