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As with French wine names, I am just as lost when it comes to Italian wine names.  There are tons of information about wine in the web and in books, but a lot of them require you to have some knowledge about wine already, so it’s a little hard to follow.  Then a friend of mine recommend a book called Great Wine Made Simple by Andrew Immer.  It’s a great introductory book on wine.  So I’m relying on this book again for Italian wines.

For simple Italian wines shopping, there are two categories: one is the classic style from famous regions (Tuscany and Piedmont), and the other category is also from those regions, but more widely available, cheap-but-good offerings. ((Immer, Andrea. Great Wine Made Simple, New York, 2000. Pg 196))

As for wine names, there are 3 ways it could be named: 1) by region name, e.g. Chianti; 2) grape name plus region name, e.g. Barbera d’Alba (Bar-BEAR-uh DAHL-buh), the Barbera grape from the Alba region in Piedmont; 3) by made-up name, like brand name. ((Immer, Andrea. Great Wine Made Simple, New York, 2000. Pg 197)) A few common Italian words we can see in wine labels: Riserva — Reserve in English; Classico — a geographical term referring to the historic heart and quality center of a particular growing region; Cantina— Italian word for winery.

First bottle in GINI 12, Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 1997, seems to be the easiest to understand; Villa Cafaggio is the producer, Chianti Classico is the region, and Riserva means reserve. 

Second bottle, Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 1997, is probably a little harder.  Castello Banfi (BAHN-fee) is the producer.  The name Brunello di Montalcino (Broo-NELL-oh dee Mohn-tall-CHEE-no) is the grape name plus region; Brunello is another name for the grape Sangiovese in Italian, also called Sangiovese Grosso (an especially high quality version of the Sangiovese grape, Grosso means big). Montalcino is referring to the region close to the town of Montalcino, in Tuscany region, of course.

The other two bottles are from Piedmont region, and they are by the same producer, Michele Chiarlo (Mee-KELL-eh Kee-AHR-loe). For the third bottle, La Court Barbera D’Asti 1997, “La Court” is the brand name. Barbera is the name of the red grape that is most widely planted in the region.  D’Asti refers to the region close to the city of Asti in Piedmont. 

For the last bottle, Countacc Monferrato 1997, “Countacc” is the brand name.  Monferrato is another region in the Piedmont region.  From the back label, it has roughly equal portion of 3 different grapes, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Nebbiolo is the most prized vine behind Piedmont’s most famous wines (Barbaresco and Barolo) ((Immer, Andrea. Great Wine Made Simple, New York, 2000. Pg 211))

One Response to “Notes on GINI 12: Italian Wine Names”

  1. Great post Kwong! I too find Italian wines and their names hard to sort out. Yet these wines remain among the most popular in many countries. Perhaps it’s because the pair so nicely with Italian cuisine.


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