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Understanding an Italian wine label

Italian wine regions

Question from Amy: It’s so damn delicious but there are so many things that confuse me about Italian wine! My main beef is the name of the wine which is rarely the same as the grape variety! Why?!? When reading an Italian wine list 99.9% of the time it’s a lucky dip as to what grape variety you’re going to get. Could you run me through the common names and what grapes are used?

In a nut shell: As far as Italian wines go, every now and again the name of the wine is the same as the name of the grape. But more often than not the name of the wine has nothing to do with the grape. Yes, infuriating! I’ve put together a handy little table below that you can print off and stick on your fridge or in your wallet. It will help you next time you’re confronted by an Italian wine list.

In a clam shell: There are at least 350 COMMON grape varieties in Italy so rest assured, you are not alone, everyone is a little confused! However some grape varieties and blends are more common than others. I’ve listed the ones that regularly appear on our wine lists or in our local bottle shops and their corresponding grape varieties. Hope it helps!

Name (what’s usually on the label) Colour Grape variety
Amarone (della Valpolicella) Red Corvina, Rondinella and others
Asti White (sparkling) Moscato
Barbaresco Red Nebbiolo
Barbera d’Alba Red Barbera
Bardolino Red Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and others
Barolo Red Nebbiolo
Brindisi Rosso Red Negroamato and others
Brunello di Montalcino Red Sangiovese
Chianti Red Sangiovese and others
Cortese di Gavi White Cortese
Dolcetto d’Alba Red Dolcetto
Frascati White Trebbiano, Malvasia, Grechetto and others
Gavi White Cortese
Lambrusco Red Lambrusco
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Red Montepulciano
Orvieto White Grechetto, Trebbiano
Pinot Grigio White Pinot Gris
Primitivo Red Zinfandel
Salice Salentino Rosso Red Negroamato
Soave White Garganega and Trebbiano
Taurasi Red Aglianico
Ugni Blanc White Trebbiano
Valpolicella Red Corvina, Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara
Verdicchio White Verdicchio
Vernaccia di San Gimignano White Vernaccia
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Red Sangiovese


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