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  • Writer's pictureV.A.

Reading wine labels - ITALY

Wine labels are the cover for the wine. They can tell you a whole story or they will just say that there is wine in the bottle. Wine labels can be different depending on the country, region, or even producer from where the wine is coming from.

Words that are usually written on a wine label are (not necessary all at the same time):

- grape variety, - the country of origin,

- quality designation, - the name of the wine,

- name of the winery or the producer, - a vintage year,

- the place where the wine was produced/bottled.

In this post, you will be able to read and learn about some of the most common words that appear on Italian wine labels and about the basic quality designations.


Quality designations:

DOCG - Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita - highest quality level designation in Italy. ~73 classified regions. The wines here follow DOC regulations + other strict regulations for each individual region.

DOC - Denominazione di Origine Controllata - wines must be made from the official grape varieties and achieve the minimum quality standards. Same as French AOC. ~329 classified regions.

IGP - Indicazione Geografica Protetta - replacing IGT. Wines using grapes from larger geographical areas. Here are also the wines that use French grape varieties like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. "Super Tuscans" - wines from French grape varieties produced in Tuscany.

Vino /Vino d'Italia / Vino Rosso/Bianco/Rosato - Italian wine or simply red, white, rosé wine. (replacing Vino da Tavola). Table wines without regional designation and normally at lower quality.

Words that appear on Italian wine labels:

  • Amabile - semi-sweet

  • Dolce - sweet

  • Secco - dry

  • Abboccato - off-dry

  • Frizzante - semi-sparkling

  • Alberello - bushvine

  • Annata - a vintage year

  • Vecchio - old

  • Vendemmia - vintage

  • Appassimento - way of drying grapes that are used for sweet or dry wines

  • Azienda Agricola - wine estate

  • Azienda Vinicola - a winery that buys most of the grapes

  • Cantina - cellar or winery

  • Castello - castle (French château)

  • Fattoria - farm

  • Tenuta - a single estate

  • Cantina sociale, cantina cooperative - cooperative winery

  • Casa vinicola - wine farm

  • Vigna, vigneto - vineyard

  • Colli - hills

  • Poggio - hill or place at higher altitude

  • Classico - the original designated area of the appellation

  • Gradi (alcohol) - alcohol strength in %

  • Imbottigliato (all'origine) - bottled at the property

  • Metodo classico, metodo tradizionale - sparkling wine that has fermented in the bottle

  • Spumante - sparkling

  • Passito - sweet wine from dried grapes

  • Recioto - wine from half-dried grapes

  • Vin Santo - dessert/sweet wine from dried grapes (normally from white grape varieties)

  • Riserva - longer aged wine than normal designation requirements

  • Superiore - wine with a longer aging period than DOC and with 0,5-1% more alcohol

  • Vendemmia tardiva - late harvest

  • Uvaggio - wine blend

Label 1: Trulli (wine brand name), Zinfandel (varietally named wine), Salento (IGT name).

Label 2: Castello della Sala (same as château, tenuta, fattoria...), Cervaro (brand name), Antiori (wine producer), Umbria (region name).

Label 3: Domìni Veneti (producer), Vigneti di Moron (single vineyard name), Recioto della Valpolicella (the type of wine).

Label 4: Colli Orientali del Friuli (local DOC), Azienda Agricola (wine made by the property only by its own grapes), Shioppettino (indigenous grape variety).

Label 5: Chianti Classico (the traditional Chianti region), Gaiole (Chianti classico village), Imbottigliato etc (bottled at source by the producer).

Label 6: Bric dël Fiasc (Piemonte's name for the Bricco Fiasco vineyard), Non desperdere il vetro nell'ambiente (disposle the bottle at proper place).

Label 7: La Cappuccina (producer), Arzimo (brand name).

Label 8: Vigna Dogarina (producer), Valdobbiadene (winegrowing area).

Label 9: Settesecco (product name), La Cantina delle e 7 Donne (producer).

Label 10: Lupi Reali (brand name), Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (Trebbiano grape from Abruzzo area).

Label 11: Vinsanto del Chianti Classico (dessert wine from Chianti region), Fontodi (producer).

Label 12: Masi (producer), Mazzano (branded wine), quantità (the number of bottles made).


Main grapes in some of the wines:

- Nebbiolo grape: Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Roero DOC, Gattinara DOCG, Ghemme DOC, Valtellina Superiore DOCG.

- Dolcetto grape: Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC, Dolcetto d'Alba.

- Barbera grape: Barbera d'Alba, Barbera d'Asti.

- Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir: Franciacorta DOCG, Terre de Franciacorta.

- Trebbiano: Lugana DOC.

- Garganega: Soave DOC/DOCG.

- Corvina, Rodinela, Molinara: Valpolicela DOC/DOCG.

- Lambrusco/Grasparossa: Lambrusco.

- Albana: Albana di Romagna DOCG.

- Glera (Prosecco): Prosecco DOC/DOCG.

- Sangiovese (exclusively or predominately): Chianti DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Carmignano DOCG.

- Brunello: Rosso di Montalcino DOCG.

- Cabernet Sauvignon (small % of Cabernet Franc): Sassicaia DOC.

- Trebbiano and Malvasia: Orvieto, Frascati.

- Greco: Greco di Tufo DOCG.

- Fiano: Fiano di Avellino DOCG.

- Aglianico: Taurasi DOCG.

- Negroamaro: Salice Salento DOC, Brindisi DOC.

* Wines from Southern Italy and Sicily will often have the grape variety on the label.

As always have a WINEderful day! :)

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