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Finding the best quality Italian wine: how do wine labels help?

Finding the best quality Italian wine: how do wine labels help?

 


Labels are a powerful tool and can give us key elements to understand wines even before opening the bottle. This is why I firmly believe that anyone approaching this world should have at least some basic knowledge on how to read a label.

 

So, after talking about Spanish wines on our last post, today we will approach Italy that has a classification system similar to the Spanish one but overall more confusing labels.
But…don’t panic. I’m here to help!

 

 

Italian wine naming


Italian wines can be named after the grape variety, the region or appellation, or they can have a fantasy name.
Obviously, when the wine is named by grape variety, things are much easier. Unfortunately most of the time, wines are named after the classification that, in turn, takes its name from the area of origin (such as, for example, Barolo or Chianti, just to name a few). And, to make things worse, some Italian wines are labelled by fantasy name, like, for example the Super-Tuscans Sassicaia or Tignanello.


Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific rule on this regard, only time and experience can help you. Apart from that, the pyramidal system of classification is an excellent starting point to decode the label of an Italian wine.

 

What do Italian wine labels shout for?

 

DOCG

At the top of the pyramid, is the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) dedicated to wines characterised by a consolidated prestige and widely recognised as valuable in terms of organoleptic evaluation.

 

Currently Italy lists 74 DOCG wines including the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo and Chianti.

 

 

 

Finding the best quality Italian wine: how do Italian wine labels help? DOCG is the most prestigious denomination that refers to government guarantees of the wines’ origins. Greco Di Tufo ‘vigna Cicogna’, Benito Ferrara
DOCG is the most prestigious denomination that refers to government
guarantees of the wines’ origins.
Greco Di Tufo ‘vigna Cicogna’, Benito Ferrara
 

 

 

DOC

The DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) classification refers to areas traditionally suited to quality wines. They must express a peculiar character strongly linked to their territory and must respect specific production requirements but with less strict margins that those applied for DOCG wines.

Currently Italy lists 332 DOC wines with the highest concentration in the region of Piedmont.

 

 

 

Finding the best quality Italian wine: how do wine Italian labels help? Wine marked DOC is produced in a specific region in Italy, making sure to preserve local traditions. Sherazade Donnafugata, Nero d'Avola Sicilia DOC
Wine marked DOC is produced in a specific region in Italy, making sure to preserve local traditions.
Sherazade Donnafugata, Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC
 

 

 

Further specifications present on the label (for DOC or DOCG wines) are:


Classico: wines produced in a specific historical and traditional sub-region
Riserva: wines that have sustained longer ageing than that requested by the classification  
Superiore: wines that have an alcohol content of at least 0.5% above the standard.

 

 

IGT

IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines are classified based on the geographical area of production, often corresponding to a whole region. This is one of the lowest classifications but among these wines it is possible to find amazing gems, including some Super-Tuscans.

How to find out which one is really descent? Time for some tech: Wine Picker, a food and wine pairing app will help  choose the best wine and give a food matching tip.

 

Finding the best quality Italian wine: how do italian wine labels help?Most IGT wines are simple, made of local grapes and meant to be drank young. Villa Raiano Falanghina 2017
Most IGT wines are simple, made of local grapes and meant to be drank young.
Villa Raiano Falanghina 2017
 

Vino da Tavola

At the bottom of the pyramid, is the Vino da Tavola that generally coincides with ready-to-drink and large daily consumption wines.

 

 

Finding the best quality Italian wine: how do italian wine labels help? Vino da tavola
Vino da tavola. (Image:http://www.agriturismoallegretti.com)
 

 

 

And a few more useful words

 

Imbottigliato all’origine: Bottled at source. This indicates that the whole production, vinification and bottling of the wine has been processed in the same place.

 

Vigneto: vineyard

 

Cantina: cellar, winery.

 

Frizzante/Spumante: sparkling wine

 

Passito: dessert wine produced through the drying of the grapes.

 

Now, if everything is clear (or at least clearer than before), I’ll pass to next step…tasting! Cheers or to say it the Italian way…Salute!


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