12 Italian Terms Wine Lovers Need to Know

a picture of the green vineyard looking down a gently sloping hill between the rows of vines

Italian wine can be confusing. But there is joy in learning. Here are 12 terms you should know. 

by Erin Henderson

Italy.

Just the name conjures up breathtaking sun-drenched beaches, misted by salt spray from the Mediterranean waves. The rustic elegance of Tuscan farmhouses nestled between rolling, vineyard covered hills and stately Cypress trees. The chic Roman trattorias, humming with animated conversation, hazy with cigarette smoke (how is it Italians make smoking look so sexy?), and bustling with busy waiters loaded down with platefuls of simple but joyously flavourful pasta.

And then there’s the wine.

Like any worthy Italian love affair, this is a relationship of intense passion – and crushing confusion.

But also like any all-consuming dalliance, Italian wine lovers may find themselves craving more and more, desperate to know every little thing about the object of their affection – if only to help them appreciate their mysterious inamorata.

To get things started, let’s begin with common Italian wine terms. So at least you can understand the language of vino love.

DOCG

Denomiazione di Orgine Controllata Garantinta. This acronym is printed on wine labels to show the wine is of the highest class under Italian law. The wines in this category are produced in specific areas, and made according to strict criteria – including aging, harvesting, grapes used, and production methods. Some of Italy’s most revered wines – Barolo, Brunello, Chianti Classico, for example, are all ranked DOCG.

DOC

Denomiazione di Orgine Controllata. The next step down on the legislative ladder is DOC. Laws surrounding the production of DOC wines, while a bit looser than DOCG, are still quite rigorous.

IGT

Indicazione Geographica Tipica. This is an interesting category that was created to give winemakers more flexibility – using international grapes, amongst other things. This freedom has led to some terrific – and terrifically expensive – wines, most notably the famed Super Tuscans.

Spumante

A fully sparkling wine that has energetic bubbles.

Metodo Classico

Italian for the classic method of making a sparkling wine. This production technique is how Champagne is made, undergoing secondary fermentation (or getting the bubbles), in the same bottle you see on store shelves.

Riserva

Riserva wines are aged longer and are more legislated in their production than non-riserva wines. However, specifics vary between regions.

Classico

Classico wines are made in the classic area of a demarcated DOC or DOCG region. Usually this means top vineyard sites on the best hills, with premium soil.

Superiore

A wine that has higher alcohol than non-superiore.

Appasimento

The winemaking technique of partially drying out the grapes before pressing. This intensifies the flavours and alcohol in the wine. This is most popularly done with Amarone.

Ripasso

Literally meaning “repassed” in Italian. This refers to the winemaking technique where the used skins of Amarone are used a second time in order to give simple Valpolicella a bit more body and structure.

Bricco

Used specifically in Piedmont. Bricco refers to the highest point on a hill or slope, and usually the most coveted vineyard site.

But perhaps the most important of all….

"Un bicchere di vino, per favore." 

“A glass of wine, please.”

 

Hear From Real People!

You were great and hilarious, and made everyone feel comfortable. Appreciate your time with me and helping pull this event together.
I had the pleasure of attending the Oceania Cruise event where you conducted a wine pairing. I have to say that your wine and food pairing made a typically ho hum travel information night, spectacular! I have never done a wine pairing. I was amazed at how food interacted with the wines.
The unique programs and the tour we did with you was a huge success. Guests really enjoyed the afternoon!
Great energy, sense of humour and very knowledgeable! Thank you for making it an afternoon to remember!
Everybody had a ton of fun and we very much see this structure as a template we can use with clients and friends in the future.
Everything was perfect and very personalized! We still talk about experience and how nice it was. Definitely memories our family will treasure forever.
You were such an awesome host and I appreciate all of the work you put into it. Thank you so much again!
Thank you very much for the amazing wine tasting. We all had the most wonderful time. The wines were excellent and your presentation was very entertaining and informative.
I wanted to thank you again for last night. Everyone had a great time, and I received a lot of compliments, on your behalf. You struck a great balance between being informational and entertaining. 10 out of 10.
You and your team were an absolute pleasure to work with! From the get go, you were very flexible with our needs, communicated in a timely manner, and tailored your services to be exactly what we asked for.

Instagram Feed

Follow on Instagram

For support issues or any questions, please email us at drinkwithus@thewinesisters.com

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to be the first to know about our wine recommendations, cocktail recipes, and great tips for throwing fabulous parties.