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Per l’Amore di Italian Wine Labels

How To Read An Italian Wine Label

If you love acronyms, which I know you do, you’re going to love to learn how to read an Italian wine label. All Italian wines fall into one of four categories within the two main categories of Table Wine and Quality Wine, which we’ve already discussed in this How To Read Old World Wine Labels series.

By the way, if you missed any of the previous posts in this series you can find them here:

How to read Old World wine labels

How to read a French wine label

These categories are:

    Table Wines
  • VdT (Vino da Tavola)
    (vee-NOH dah tah-VOH-lah)
  • IGT (Indicazione di Geografica Tipica)
    (een-dee-cah-zee-OH-nee dee Gee-OH-grah-fee-kah Tee-pee-KAH)
    Quality Wines produced in a specified region (QWpsr)
  • DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)
    (day-no-mee-nah-tsee-OH-nee dee OH-ree-jheen con-troh-LA-tah)
  • DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)
    (day-no-mee-nah-tsee-OH-nee dee OH-ree-jheen con-troh-LA-tah ee gahr-ahn-TEE-tah)

Learn Italian wine classification!Ring a bell? These categories follow the European Union structure of “Table” wine and “QWpsr” wines which are based on the French AOC system of structuring. Instead of pronouncing the long ass names of each, most people just use the abbreviations, VdT, IGT, DOC and DOCG. For this lesson, I will too. As my last post and as most of my posts on the subject of how to read Old World wine labels have been rather lengthy, let’s cut the crap and get right to it.

Learn about Italian VdT wine. VdT or Vino da Tavola

Like the French category of Vin de Table, Italian VdT wines are made of grapes from anywhere in Italy and are labeled either red (rosso) or white (bianco). They do not indicate geographical location, variety or vintage. Most are produced in bulk and are used as blending wines.

IGT or Indicazione di Geografica Tipica

A wine with the IGT classification tells you where the wine is from or where the grapes were grown. It covers a loosely specified geography to indicate that its wine production is typical of a general area, like the Lazio region in the example below. And if you’re not familiar with Italian wine geography, the type of grape may not be immediately recognizable on the label, as with Montiano which is Merlot.

Learn about Italian IGT wine.

DOC or Denominazione di Origine Controllata

Your DOC wines are grown and produced in a specific location with strict regulations. These regulations include regional boundaries, restrictions on which grape varietals are grown, yield, alcohol content and viticultural and winemaking practices within the specified region, for example, the rules for making Barbaresco differ from the rules for making Chianti.

Learn about Italian DOC wine.

DOCG or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita

DOCG wines are the top dogs of the Italian wine world. Guaranteed with a pink label of government standards across the top of the bottle, DOCGs see longer aging and have stricter limits on yields (which make them quite expensive) and like the lesser Status Wines of DOCs have tighter boundary restrictions. The appellation of the DOCG is typically synonymous with the type of wine, as with our Brunello di Montalcino below.

Learn about Italian DOCG wine.

Other things you might find on an Italian wine label:

  • Abboccato: lightly sweet
  • Amabile: semi sweet
  • Amaro: bitter
  • Azienda Agricola: farm estate
  • Classico: center or “classic” growing area of a specific region
  • Dolce: sweet
  • Frizzante: lightly sparkling
  • Imbottiglialiata: bottled (all’ origine: at the source)
  • Produttore: producer
  • Riserva: a wine that gets extended aging before release
  • Superiore: DOC or DOCG wines with higher alcohol content
  • Uva: grape
  • Vendemmia: harvest or vintage

In the last of this series, I’ll go over German wine labels. As easy as it was to learn how to read an Italian wine label, you shouldn’t have any problem reading a German wine label.

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