(Other articles in the “how to read a wine label” series)
Two weeks ago, I explained what each line means on wine labels for four different French wine regions.
This week, I thought I would keep the ball rolling by focusing on Italian wines.
Like France, many winemakers in Italy sure don’t make it easy to understand what type of wine is in the bottle.
Often, there’s nothing on the label about what types of grapes were used to make Italian wines.
Instead, like many French winemakers, Italian labels have more to do with where the wine comes from rather than information about the grapes. Then again, sometimes not.
To be honest, I am still sometimes confused by certain wine labels from Italy. That might be because there seems to be so many tiny subregions within regions in Italy.
So without further ado, I decided to decode a wine label line by line from one of the best known winemakers in one of Italy’s most popular wine regions – Tuscany.
The wine I chose to help readers better understand Italian wine labels is a 2001 Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo Annata Brunello Di Montalcino. (Don’t worry so much about the vintage. I’m simply using this older, empty bottle as an example.)
And like the French wine labels I wrote about last week, I’ll start from the top and work our way down to the bottom of the bottle, line by line. Hope you enjoy.
Annata 2001 – It’s easy to miss this small, second label near the top of the bottle. However, it contains some of the most important information about this particular red wine. Like many Italian winemakers, Biondi-Santi makes more than one wine. This small label is especially important since it states which wine this is from Biondi-Santi, its Annata wine. Annata simply means “vintage” in Italian. But in the case of Biondi-Santi, its Annata wine cost significantly less (about $400 less) than its “Reserva” wine, which has the word “Reserva” instead of “Annata” on the same, small label near the top of the bottle. This small label also contains the precise number for the bottle since Biondi-Santi only makes a small number of “Annata” and “Reserva” wines.
Brunello Di Montalcino – Moving down to the first line on the main label, this line explains where the wine is from as well as which grape was used to make the wine. That’s because “Brunello Di Montalcino” is more than just one of the most famous wine regions in Italy’s larger, Tuscany wine region. The word “Brunello” refers to the grape used to make this wine. Brunello is the word many Italians use in this part of Tuscany to describe the Sangiovese grape used to make this wine. So if you like Sangiovese wines, you’ll love this show stopper.
Denominazione Di Origine Controllata E Garantita – Italian for “designation of origin and guaranteed,” this line refers to Italy’s classification system for its wine. In this case, this line refers to the DOCG system. However, you might sometimes see DOC on a bottle of Italian wine instead of DOCG. What’s the difference? DOCG means the wine’s quality has been guaranteed (garantita) by the Italian government as being of exceptional high quality. (I’d like to have that government job.)
Biondi-Santi – This line in large, bold letters refers to the name of the winery. This is definitely a welcome change compared to some French wineries, where the name of the winery sometimes reads like a footnote near the bottom of the bottle. Here, there’s no mistaking that you’re getting a wine from the winery that was the first one in Italy to labeled its wine Brunello di Montalcino in 1888.
Marca Propria – This line simply means “own brand” in Italian.
Tenuta ‘Greppo’ – This line refers to the exact location of the winery. In this case, Tenuta Greppo is the name of the estate (”tenuta” in Italian) where the winery’s main vineyards and cellar are located.
Inbottigliato all’ origine dal viticultore – This line in Italian means “originally bottled by the winemaker.” And in this particular case, this wine was originally bottled by…
Franco Biondi Santi – I love the way many French and Italian wines pay homage to winemakers of the past on their labels. This wine is no exception. Franco Biondi Santi (1922-2013) ran the winery for decades founded by his grandfather in the late 1800s. Under his tenure, Franco Biondi Santi helped maintain the traditions while also improving the quality of these magnificent red wines from Brunello di Montalcino.
Nella Cantina Della Tenuta ‘Greppo’ – This line means “in the cellar of the ‘Greppo’ estate” in Italian. That simply means the wine was created in the cellar of the Greppo estate at Biondi-Santi.
Montalcino Italia – This line refers to the exact town (Montalcino) in Italy’s Tuscany region where this magical winery is located.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s journey down the wine label. Reading each line, I was immediately transported back to the day when I first tried this delicious, outstanding wine. It’s not the same as a trip to this legendary winemaking village in Italy. But I’ll take memory lane for now and dream perhaps of one day going to Montalcino.
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