Table of Contents

    How To Read An Italian Wine Label

    While Italy has up to 350 wine varieties and 20 wine regions, you don’t need to know every specific detail to read a wine label. By understanding the structure and markers on a label, including the classification, you can deduce the type, variety, taste, and quality of the wine.

    Read on to find out all about the four government-approved classifications to understand Italian wines like a sommelier.  

    The Label 

    In order to begin decoding Italian wines, you must start with the label. Take a look at the six most important pointers on wine labels you can use to understand Italian wines better.  

    Estate Name

    The name of the vintner or the winery is located on the top, middle, or bottom of the wine bottle. Typically, estate names on Italian wines use words such as Tenuta (estate), Azienda (company), Castello (Castle), Fattoria (Wine Farm), or Cascina (Winery). 

    Region

    The geographical location of where the wine was produced is called the region such as Chianti. It could be specified with the name or map of the location. 

    Type of Wine

    The name of the wine type such as Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola, and so on is typically written in the largest font size for clarity. 

    Classification

    This refers to the certification allotted to the wine by the official system for classifying wines in Italy. Common classifications include Vini da Tavola, DOC, IGT, and DOCG. 

    Grape

    While not mandatory, this indicates the name of the Italian grape varietal, such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. 

    Vintage Year

    The year that the wine was made is referred to as  ‘vintage’ and denoted on the label towards the middle or bottom of the bottle such as 1999 or 2012. 

    The Different Italian Classifications

    While the French classification of wines is based on terroir, Italians use broader parameters: grape variety, region, name. Take a look at the four classifications seen on Italian wines below. 

    Vino da Tavola (VdT)

    Translated as ‘table wine’, VdT is the lowest-grade certification given the minimal regulations. This category of Italian wines doesn’t disclose the region or grapes used on the label. It’s not allowed to specify the vintage of VdT too. A large number of Italian table wines come from Tuscany or Piedmont.

    Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)

    A notch higher than VdT, IGT is translated as ‘wine typical of a region’ and points towards the geographic location of the grapes. This certification is not as strict as DOC or DOCG but is equivalent to the French Vin de Pays.

    Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)

    Derived from the French model of AOC, DOC was created in 1963. It uses exclusive grapes from exclusively-defined areas in addition to specific traditions of winemaking from the designated area. Today, you can count over 300 DOC classified wines.

    Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita (DOCG)

    The highest quality certification of Italian wines, DOCG was launched in 1982 to bring down the overabundance of DOC wines. This certification is given to regions producing elite-grade wines for more than five years consecutively. There are over 74 DOCG Italian wines, which are classified DOCG strictly after thorough assessments.

    Popular Italian Wine Offerings From Wine Clubs 

    Accounting for one-third of the total wines across the globe, the classifications and names of Italian wines might confuse you. The following lists four best wine clubs with their best wines, each with a different classification. 

    Laithwaites

    Ultima Edizione NV is a richly scented Italian table wine in scarlet-black color available from this red wine club. The cherry and licorice taste makes this a sophisticated red blend from Filippo Baccalaro. Pair it with game meats to bring out the choicest flavors. 

    Firstleaf

    Sangiovese 2016 from Messer Del Fauno is a high-tannin IGT wine that delivers medium sweetness. Tastes of cherry and oak make it a global favorite, especially when complemented with foods like meatballs.

    Naked Wines

    Classified as DOC, Daniele Artioli Pignoletto is a modern sparkling from the best white wine club online. This Italian bubbly brings flower and fruity notes while tasting divine when paired with cured meats or Mortadella. 

    WSJwine

    Cordone Barolo 2013 is a DCOG classified vino made with Nebbiolo grapes. This full-bodied red is best for a wine club gift as it comes with hints of blackberry and rose. It’s complemented well with cheesy pasta. 

    Bottom Line 

    After practicing with a few bottles, reading the labels will become almost second nature. Moreover, Italian wines are easy to understand once you learn the meanings of the four classifications including VdT, IGT, DOC, and DOCG, which differ by their geographical locations and regulations.  

    Pick from one of the four best Italian wines from the top wine clubs listed above to get started.