Italian Wine Styles

Red or Rosso
Rosso is Italian for “red.” According to DOC law, Rosso indicates the wine was made from specific, approved grapes. This varies from zone to zone.

White or Bianco
Bianco is Italian for “white.” According to DOC law, Bianco indicates that the wine was made from specific, approved grapes. This varies from zone to zone.

Pink or Rosato
Rosato is to Italy, as Rosé is to France. In Italy, the term Rosato is used to indicate a wine that is made from specific, approved grapes. This varies from zone to zone.

italian wine styles Dry or Secco
Secco is “dry” in Italian. In a full, dry wine all the sugars have been converted to alcohol during fermentation. A medium-dry wine still has a small amount of residual sugars. See Residual Sugars

Italian term describing wines that are medium-sweet. Amabile wines are usually less sweet than those labeled dolce, but sweeter than abboccato.

Dolce or Sweet
Sweetness is detected by the front tip of the tongue. It is these residual sugars which are picked up by our senses. Some sweet wines are made from grapes that have been left on the vine so long that they are fully concentrated with sweet juice. In these grapes, there are too many sugars to ferment, therefore residual sugars remain and the wine is left sweet. See Residual Sugars, Vin Santo

Sparkling or Spumante
Refers to fully sparkling wines, as opposed to those that are slightly sparkling or frizzante. In Italy, spumante wines are created in two ways, Metodo Classico (Méthode Champenoise) or by using an autoclave (sealed tank). Asti Spumante is the most renowned of the spumante wines. See Metodo Classico, Autoclave, Asti Spumante DOCG.

Fizzy or Frizzante
An Italian term meaning “lightly sparkling.” Frizzante wines are also slightly sweet. Pétillant is the French equivalent and Spritzig is the German term.

Fortified or Liquoroso
Refers to a wine with a high alcohol content. These wines are usually sweet and fortified by the addition of grape alcohol. One popular example is Marsala. See Marsala DOC

Reserve or Riserva
Riserva is Italian for “reserve.” Can only be assigned to DOC and DOCG wines that have been aged longer than regular wines. Usually the winemaker will designate his better wines as riserva. The aging requirements will vary from wine to wine. Chianti riserva, for example must age for 3 years and Brunello di Montalcino riserva must age 5 years. Riserva speciale denotes and even longer aging process needed, usually an additional year.

Superior or Superiore
Superiore on the label means the DOC wine has a slightly higher alcohol content and usually means longer aging capabilities. The higher alcohol content is caused by riper grapes with more sugars.

Italian term for “light red”. It denotes wines that are rosato made from the Gropello grape.

Novello are young wines. They must be bottled before the end of the vintage year. In practice, they are bottled within two weeks of the harvest.

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