Should we judge an Italian Wine by its Cover?

You can learn a lot from a wine label. Especially if you know what you are seeking. It is also important to understand what the label isn’t telling you.

The following is a general guide on Italian wine label indicators that will enhance your next Italian wine experience.

Reading an Italian Wine Label

European labels can be a challenge to discern, especially those from Italy. A few key details can assist in understanding the implications of the language on your bottle.

DOCG: An abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. It is the top classification for Italian wines. Strict rules govern all aspects of production. They include where the grapes can be grown, what grape varieties are allowed and how wines can be aged. There are 74 DOCGs in Italy, with the latest addition in 2011.

DOC: An abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata. Is one step below DOCG. Rules govern production and style but are not as stringent as those for DOCGs. There are 334 DOCs in Italy, with the most recent additions approved in mid-2017.

IGT: An abbreviation for Indicazione Geografica Tipica. Introduced in 1992, this classification allows winemakers to use grapes and craft styles not allowed under DOC and DOCG regulations. There are currently 118 IGTs in Italy.

VDT: stands for Vino da Tavola, now renamed simply Vino is the most basic classification of Italian wine. The original name translates to ‘table wine’ and is intended to distinguish it from region-specific wines.

Riserva: Denotes a wine aged for significantly longer than usual, though rules vary among the denominations.

Superiore: Indicates a higher-quality designation, tacked on generally to a regional name (i.e., Soave Superiore).

Classico: Denotes wines from a zone within a region (i.e., Chianti Classico) considered the original area of production.

Azienda Agricola: A farm or an estate that produces its own grapes for the production of its wines.

Annata or Vendemmia: A specific harvest or vintage.


Tenuta: Estate

Vigneto: Vineyard

Now that we had an overview in identifying Italian Wine Label terms, please check out several of our outstanding Italian Wines: