Italian Wine Labels

How Easily To Read Italian Wine Labels and Look Like an Expert

Italian wine labels are easy to read once you know what you are looking for. A little information on Italian wine labels goes a long way when you are in Italy looking for a great wine to purchase or dining at an exclusive Italian restaurant anywhere in the world. Here, you will read all you need to know about Italian wine labels and become an expert and impress your friends. Italian Wine Labels and How Italian Wines are Classified In Italy there are laws and regulations in place that require the following information to be placed on all Italian wine labels:

1. The type of grapes used to make the wine

2. The location where the grapes are grown

3. How the wine is made

4. How long the wine has been aged

If a wine producer meets certain specific requirements, the wine will qualify for a special designation, also known as denominazione. When purchasing a good Italian wine, you need to clearly understand what these denominations mean. Let’s begin with a very simple example:
“Barolo” DOCG wine is made using only nebbiolo grapes of the region of Barolo in Piedmont. All the Italian wine labels will show the information about the mane of the grapes (nebbiolo grapes, in this particular case), the location where the grapes are grown, which is the region of a particular are. In this case Barolo is the name of a specific area in the province of Piemont. You will find these grapes only here and that’s what makes each Italian wine unique and special.

Italian Wine Labels: 4 Types if Denomination

In Italy the classification has four levels. When purchasing a bottle of Italian wine make sure one of these denominations is present. The most strict, the higher the quality of the wine.


In Italian this reads Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This means that the wine denomination of origin is not only controlled but also guaranteed. This is the highest classification for quality Italian wines which was established in 1963. A wine with this type of classification has been tested through government-approved procedures before being bottled in order to assure its authenticity and quality. This is the highest level of classification you can get with quality superiority and premium characteristics. This is wine is registered and the bottle has a special numbered government seal across the neck. This type of denomination is reserved only for very expensive wines.


In Italian this reads Denominazione di Origine Controllata . This means that the wine denomination is controlled to be authentic. At this level there is no testing panel done on the wine to guarantee its taste quality.


In Italian this reads Indicazione Geografica Tipica. This means that the wine that the typical geographic wine location is indicated. A wine with this classification has much looser regulation. In fact 75% of the wine is be made from characteristic grapes of the region. There are many high quality IGT wines.


In Italian this reads Vino da Tavola. This literally means “table wine.” This type of classification was introduced in the 1992 wine legislation to include all those wines which did not qualify for either DOCG or DOC designations because they do not follow the traditional Italian wine-making procedures. This due to the fact that wine producer in this case may use grapes varieties other than what was specified for quality wines. This only thing this label guarantees is that the wine is produced in Italy. The label does not show the name of the grapes used, or the vintage. On the label you will find only the type of wine, like red (rosso), white (bianco) or rose (sosato). Make no mistake, a lower classification does not mean that the wine is of poor quality. I have tasted great vini da tavola at many local family restaurant in the area of sangiovese, where Chianti Classico is produced and I can tell you that their taste and quality is excellent! This type of wine may receive this label because it does not follow specific wine laws and guidelines, which for many small and local wine producers are too costly.

Italian Wine Labels: Version Type

Many times you will find additional wording on the label that better identifies the version type of the wine versus the regular kind. This is done to better describe the characteristic region, the vintage and unique alcohol content of the wine.

These are the words that you are most likely to read on the labels of many famous Italian wines:

Clsssic (Classico): This wine is uniquely made in the historic region of the designation that makes it a well-respected wine.

Reserve (Riserva): This wine has been aged longer than usual.

Superior (Superiore): This wine was made under high standard of production.

How to Read Italian Wine Labels:
Italian Language Guide to Reading Wine Labels

It is important to learn a little bit of Italian words that will help you better understand the label of the wine you want to purchase. Here is a short list of the most Italian words you will need to understand general terms related to the Italian winery industry.

Cascina: farm

Tenuta vinicola: winery estate

Vigneto: vignard

Produttore di vino: wine producer

Azienda vinicola: wine company

Cantina: winery

Vendemmia, Annata: vintage

Invecchiato: aged

Imbotigliato: bottled

Another important aspect of Italian wine labels is understanding the different varieties of Italian grapes. Since there are more than 2,000 indigenous grapes in Italy, it would be impossible to learn about them all, but anyone interested in Italian wine labels can easily lern the most common ones, which are:

Barbera, brunello, catarratto, montepulciano, malvasia, trebbiano, negro amaro, morellino, and primitivo.

Here is a list of the Common Italian Terms
Used in Many Italian Wine Labels

Abboccato: Lightly sweet

Amabile: Medium sweet

Amaro: Bitter or dry

Amarone: DOGC red wine made from dried grapes

Bianco: White

Chiaretto: Pale red

Classico: Wine made from high quality vignards in a DOCG or DOC area

Dolce: Sweet

Frizzante: Sparkly

Frizzantino: Slightly sparkly

Passito: A strong flavoured wine made from dried grapes

Recioto: Red or sweet white wine made from dried grapes

Ripasso: Full body wine

Rosato: Rose’

Rosso: Red

Secco: Dry

Spumante: Sparkly white wine used as a dessert wine

Vecchio: Aged

Vino novello: New wine