Understanding Italian Wine Labels

Parts of an Italian Wine Label

Italian wine labels are widely varied in how they look. Fortunately there are a specific set of information and clues that you can proactively seek out to determine what it is. The next time you are looking bewildered at an Italian wine label, try to identify the following characteristics:

  • Wine Type:
    1. Grape Variety as in “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” or “Sagrantino di Montefalco”
    2. By Region or sub-region, such as Chianti
    3. By Name such as “Sassicaia” (sass-ah-ki-yah)

  • Region The region or sub-region will always be located next to the classification level

  • Classification (DOCG, DOC, IGT, Vino da Tavola) - These do not indicate quality levels. IGT does not have the restrictions of DOC or DOCG. It simply allows the winemaker to express his/her talent whichever way they please as well as use non Italian varieties in blends.

  • Wine Name This is never next to the classification and often indicates that the wine is a blend of grapes as in the case of a Supertuscan wine. e.g. Bolgheri Rosso IGT
    You can always tell if it’s a named wine by where the location of the name is on the label. The name is never next to the wine classification. Just so you know, the most common classification on named wines is IGT. This means that producers can use both Italian and non-Italian origin grapes in their wine (like Merlot). Some named wines have an additional regional name on the label (which would be located right next to the classification level). This will mean it falls under the requirements of that regional name and, in some cases, is a blend of that region’s most planted grapes.
  • Producer Name Italian wineries will often use words like Tenuta, Azienda, Castello or Cascina in their name

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