Italian terminology

Italian wine terminology, work in progress …

– A –
aciaio  stainless steel.
acidità  acidity.
affinare  to mature.
affinato  matured.
amabile  medium-sweet.
amarone  a type of passito and recioto, with grapes dessicated for 100-120 days, fermented to dryness, so alcohol is high, typically about 16% abv (min.14%), with a bitterness on the finish – amaro means bitter, with minimum 24 months ageing; some oak-age for far longer; riserva wines are aged for a minimum 4 years. Awarded DOCG in 2010, the potentially best Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, or simply Amarone DOCG, is made from old vine corvina, corvinone, rondinella and molinara. These are small volume wines, expensive, concentrated, complex, long-lived needing 10 years+ for maturity, and are regarded as vini di medidazione – meditation wines – for sniffing and sipping, especially with those hitting 17% abv.
Regulations permit up to 70% of approved yield to be processed into Amarone, this, as the style has become fashionable, has led to profiteering, as wine is made from overproduced grapes grown in the fertile plain, rather than the classical quality-driven hilly area.  The regulations do not discriminate, yet, between these two Amarones.  So relatively cheap Amarone can be had, but it denegrates the ‘real’ thing. Fourteen quality producers have formed an association to counter this – see Amarone Families.

  • tasting note: in youth deep purple-ruby, garnet with age; dry; FB, fruity – black cherry and brambly fruit, and oak; becoming complex and porty with age – date, fig, prune, oak, black pepper, coffee, cinnamon and liquorice. The best are approachable after 5 years, and will improve over 10-20 years.

Amarone Families  an association of 11 (2014) high quality producers who see the need to safeguard and uphold the traditions and quality of Amarone. They self-fund tastings and seminars around the world to educate consumers and so reinforce knowledge and understanding of the superior, higher value product.
anidride carbonica  carbon dioxide, CO2.
annata  year of vintage.
appassimento  the process of natural desiccation of ripe grapes, a quite ancient method, using selected loosely knit bunches – to avoid rot, typically from the best sites (best = higher levels and consistency of ripeness), concentrating sugars, acids and flavour precursors, to give a stronger and optionally sweeter wine.  Desiccation can be achieved in a number of ways – grapes left to hang on the vine as late harvest, left to hang on the vine after the cordon or cane has been cut, or harvested and dried on straw, on racks, or hung from rafters or the equivalent with good air ventilation to avoid rot.  Wines made using such desiccated grapes are termed passito, examples of which include Amarone, Recioto and Vin Santo; there is also Ripasso which uses by-product of the method.
arele  the traditional bamboo and wood hurdles used for appassimento, some still employ them.
asciutto  bone dry.

– B –
bicchiere (pl. bicchiere)  glass, used by Gamberro Rosso wine awards, three glasses is the top.
biossido di carbonio  carbon dioxide, CO2.
bollicine  bubbles, bubbly.
botritizzate  botryits, botrytis infected.
botte (pl. botti)  cask, large wooden barrel(s), of capacity 10-150hl, and traditionally made from Slavonian oak, or sometimes chestnut.  Botti are expensive and in continuous use for decades, becoming tartrate coated so that with age, there is no discernible oak flavour imparted to a wine.
botti di aciaio  stainless steel barrels.
botti di legno  wooden barrels.
buccia pl. bucce  skin eg macerazione delle bucce = maceration on the skins.

– C –
campo  field.
cantina  winery, wine cellar.
cantina sociale o cantina sociale cooperativa o cantina cooperativa  cooperative winegrowers association.
cavatappi (m)  corkscrew.
classico  DOC or DOCG designation of a wine created in a well-established, classical, region of production, where terroir and variety(ies) have been shown to be optimally matched over many years to produce superior wine.
col fondo  with sediment, related to the second fermentation of a sparkling wine in bottle, without disgorgement, so that lees are retained in the final product. Also see fermentazione col fondo.
cooperativa  cooperative, not normally prominent on the front label, eg Cantina Tollo, Casal Bordino.
cooperative agricola  cooperative winegrowers association.
colle (pl. colli)   hill.
collina (pl. colline)  a smaller hill than a colle.  Following this pattern, a mobile phone can be telofinino (little telephone), from telefono.
consorzio  trade association, with regulatory and promotional roles.
contrada  named parcel of land, as with the French lieu-dit.

– D –
wine tasting.
diraspare  to de-stem.
diraspatura  de-stemmed.
dolce  sweet.

– E –
(m)  hectare (10,000 m.sq, ~2.5 acres).

– F –
fattoria  farm, or largish wine-producing estate.
fermentazione col fondo  second fermentation in bottle, undisgorged.
fermo  still (wine), sometimes on the label to distinguish, for the buyer’s benefit, between a producer’s sparkling and still offerings.
feudo  large estate.
flaccida(o)  flabby.
frizzante CO2 pressure 1-2.5atm.
frizzantino  a prickle of CO2.
fusto  vat.

– G –
galestro  marl, which is clayey-limestone in a mixture range of 30-60% clay and 60-30% limestone, erring, in the case of Chianti Classico region for example, on the side of more limestone content.
gelata notturna (f)  overnight frost.
gelo (m)  frost.
giro a poggio (planted) across-slope, following height contours, also see ritocchino.
gran selezione  a new DOCG category in 2014, above the basic Chianti Classico DOCG and the higher Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG levels.

– I –
imbottigliato  bottled.
in purezza  varietal (wine).
invecchiato  aged.

– L –
(a) lacrima  
literally tear as in weeping. An ancient term, seemingly from Puglia or Apulia, related to production of rose wine from black grapes, whilst minimising skin contact, in olden days the grapes were squeezed in a sack from which tears of juice dripped.
(di) legno  (wooden) wood.

– M –
macerazione carbonica (f)  carbonic maceration.
marsalato  an oxidised Marsala style wine.
metodo charmat or metodo martinotti  tank method of producing sparkling wine.
millesimato  sparkling wine with a vintage year eg Prosecco Millesimato extra-dry 2015.
muffa (f)  mildew.

– N –
normale  an unofficial term denoting the basic wine of a denomination/appellation.
novello  young, as in un vino novello – a young wine.

– O –
ondata di caldo  heat-wave.

– P –
passito  translates as raisined wine, a wine made by the process of appassimento. Some resultant wines are labelled with the term ‘passito’, for example from the island of Pantelleria a DOC made from zibibbo (aka muscat of alexandria), and from Umbria – a DOCG from sagrantino, both of about 14.5% abv.
pastoso  off dry.
pergola  a high training system also known as tendone, adopted, depending on the location, with the aim of frost protection by elevating the shooting area, or grape sunburn protection by presenting a soft, flat, elevated barrier to protect grapes hanging below.
pieve  parish.
pigiatura  pressing.
podere  farm, estate.

–  Q –
quercia  oak.

– R –
ramato  from ramare, to copper coat or to spray with copper (sulphate), the coppery hue of a pinot grigio which has been given a moderate amount of skin contact. This variety when fully ripe shows light brown coloured skins, hence the coppery hue, which can also give rise to a more red fruited palette and a grippy texture. See (Brook, 2015), below.
recioto  historically refers to use of the ripest parts of a bunch, the uppermost ears or orecchie.  Recioto is a type of passito, there being both dry and sweet versions.  Sweet recioto is made from old vine grapes, picked to preserve acidity, desiccated for about 5 months, with fermentation halted at typically 14% abv with 8% RS, and though botrytis is not a requisite, it can when present add an extra dimension. These small volume wines are created as Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG from a blend of corvina, rondinella and molinara; and Recioto di Soave DOCG (top producer Pieropan) from garganega.  Good recioto is not cheap. To be strictly correct, the fermented to dry version – Amarone, should be titled Recioto Amarone della Valipolicela DOCG.

  • red recioto tasting note: in youth deep purple-ruby, garnet with age; depending on the vintage medium-sweet to sweet; violets, blackberry, cherry, kirsch – reminiscent of young port; rich, concentrated, with a bitter after-note. Approachable from 2 years, will keep for 5.
  • white recioto tasting note: Leonildo Pieropan ‘Le Colombare’ Recioto di Soave 2009 (at Bucklands Manor, Worcs) deep intensity gold; pronounced intensity with aromas of tropical fruits, in particular a botrytised note of mango dominating, then papaya; medium (+) acidity balances the sweetness perfectly, of pronounced intensity with similar tropical flavours; a long long length with a clean fresh finish infused with rich ripe mango. (£55 a bottle).

riesling italico  welschriesling
riesling renano  true riesling ie Rhine riesling
  a finished young Valpolicella that is ‘passed over’ the spent grapes of a recioto or amarone fermentation, stimulating a secondary fermentation, and is fermented to dry. This takes 1-4 weeks, and gives a more structured wine, with improved longevity, higher alcohol and extraction – so more body, lower acidity, richness, roundness and character. Another way, adopted by Masi, is to induce the secondary fermentation by adding crushed semi-dried grapes to the base wine. It is a Veneto appellation – DOC Valpolicella Ripasso, and its wines can be regarded as baby amarone, being ready to drink in a few years, rather than a decade plus, and cost a third of the price.
riserva  a wine which has been aged longer than a basic wine, this applies to requisite ageing of DOC and DOCG only.  For example Chianti Classico Riserva with 24 months minimum ageing, as opposed to Chianti Classico (normale) with minimum 12 months ageing.
rotocchino  (planted) down-slope, also see giro a poggio
rosato  rosé.

– S –
sangiovese  an important red variety, with many synonyms, most importantly brunello (di Montalcino), morellino (di Scansano) and nerello (Sicily); also niellucio (Corsica).
sapore  flavour.
sboccatura  disgorging.
secco  dry.
selvaggina  game(y), as in aroma.
sfuso  in bulk (wine).
societa agricola  an independent producer.
solfito(i)  sulphite(s).
solforoso  sulphurous.
sovramaturazione  late harvest, overripe.
spumante  CO2 pressure > 3.5atm
stramature  overripe eg uve stramature.
stravecchio  very aged.
superiore a wine with both higher alcohol and lower yield than for a normale.

– T –
tappo  corked, in the sense of a faulty wine, il vino sa di tappo – the wine is corked.
telefonino  little telephone ie a mobile.
tendone  see pergola.
tiraggio  tirage, bottling still base wines with sugar and yeast to create a second fermentation in bottle, retaining the Co2 gas in solution, to create a sparkling wine.
tenuta o tenuta vinicola  wine estate.
toponimo  place name

– U –
uva  grape.
uvaggio  a blend of grapes eg in Valpolicella.

–  V –
vendemmia  vintage, harvest.
vendemmia tardiva  late harvest.
vigna, vigneto – vineyard.
vinnacia  grape pomace, that is the spent grape skins, seeds and stems at the end of vinification.
vino santo o vin santo  translates as holy wine.  A type of passito, made from semi-dried grapes, associated particularly with Tuscany, but also produced in DOC Trentino and DOC Terre di Offida (Marche).  The grapes are gently pressed, the must is fermented in small sealed barrels together with madre (a concentrated mother starter from the previous batch), on ullage, which are left sealed and to their own devices for up to 5 years (minimum 3) in lofts, completing fermentation and then slowly oxidising. Some use a solera type ageing system.  In Chianto Classico there are blends of trebbiano, malvasia and canaiolo, as well as varietal  sangiovese as red or rose. The style is usually medium-sweet to sweet, at about 15% abv, though a dry version is possible, with higher alcohol.

  • Tasting note: nose and palate – apricot, peach, tangerine, marmalade, dried fruits, nuts and caramel; sweet with balancing fresh acidity; silky, complex, with a long finish.

vite  vine.
vite ad alberello bush trained, aka head-trained or gobelet (Fr).
vitigno  vine/grape variety.

–  Z –
zucchero residuo
(m)  residual sugar.


  1. Brook, S. (2015) Decanter. Think you know pinot grigio? Online accessed 13/04/15.

Updated 28/03/19

About citbp

I am interested in everything about wine, from site selection to tasting.
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