L'labelling of Italian wine is a complex world made up of a set of compulsory or optional indications that change according to the classification of the wine. This is why the information I am about to give you are very precious not only for theaspiring sommelier in order not only to pass the AIS - or any other association - examination, but also for thewine enthusiast or the average consumer who needs to learn to choose what to drink. Just as we read the label of any product in the supermarket we should also read the wine label to be aware of what we are buying.

What is the label on a bottle of wine and what is it for?

The label is the wine's identity cardthe document certifying the legal requirements for marketing. On the one hand it protects the consumer and facilitates his choices, on the other hand it allows the producer to convey all the information he deems useful to encourage the purchase of his wine.

Italian wine labelling: 

Since the new wine CMO, the label must contain certain mandatory information and there may be some optional indications, provided they are expressly provided for in the regulations. Mandatory indications must appear on the container in the same field of vision so that they can be read simultaneously without having to turn the container and must be presented in indelible characters and clearly distinguishable from all other written indications and drawings. Mandatory and optional indications when expressed in words must be in one or more of the official languages of the EC.

Italian wine labelling: what are the compulsory indications?

  • category of wine product (wine, liqueur wine, sparkling wine, sparkling wine, etc.), may only be omitted if an indication of designation of origin or geographical indication or traditional term is present;
  • name and expression of the PDO or PGI or, instead of or in addition, the traditional term DOC or DOCG or IGT;
  • Actual alcoholic strength by volume expressed in % vol: the value stated on the label may deviate by approximately 0.5 % vol from the results of analyses carried out on the product. This tolerance increases to 0.8 % vol for wines aged more than 3 years and for sparkling, semi-sparkling and liqueur wines;
  • origin and provenance;
  • vintage of the grapes (DOC and DOCG) only if at least 85% of the grapes come from the same vintage;
  • references to the bottler (name and/or trademark and address);
  • sugar content (only for sparkling wines): natural brut or dosage zero, extra brut, extra dry, dry, demi-sec, abboccato, sweet;
  • presence of allergens such as sulphur dioxide ('Contains sulphites');
  • packaging lot;
  • indication of the quantity of the container.

Italian wine labelling: what are the optional indications?

  • reference (name, trademark, address) to other operators involved in the supply chain (producer, distributor...);
  • use of terms such as abbey, castle, fortress... referring to the farm provided that all processing operations take place in the area mentioned;
  • Community logo on the presence of allergens;
  • vintage of the grapes, only if at least 85 % of the grapes come from the same vintage;
  • grape varieties, but only if they belong to the types permitted by the MIPAAF in accordance with the CMO;
  • grape varieties: only one grape variety may be named if it represents at least 85 % of the varieties used, two or more grape varieties may be named if they represent 100 % of the varieties used;
  • sugar content - only for non-sparkling winesdry (< 4 g/l, < 9 g/l only if total acidity is NOT < 2 g/l), abboccato (< 12 g/l and < 18 g/l only if total acidity expressed in g/l is NOT 45 g/l) to be used according to the amount of residual sugar present in the wine;
  • indications concerning the method of ageing and/or elaboration: Superiore, Vino Novello or Novello
  • Community PDO/PGI symbols;
  • references to the production method for non-sparkling PDO/PGI wines: barrel fermented, barrel matured, barrel aged... possibly followed by the name of the wood (French oak, Slavonian oak...);
  • References to the production method for PDO/PGI sparkling wines: bottle-fermented, classic method, traditional method, crémant.

How to read the label of a bottle of wine

Never forget that wine is first and foremost a food and for this it must not only be good, but also healthy. The label first of all protects you as a consumer because what must be stated corresponds to a set of rules and protocols that the producer must follow.

Italian wine labelling: table wines

When one speaks of table wine, one often thinks of wines of inferior quality, but this is not always true. In fact, it is not uncommon for winegrowers to decide to produce their best wines without following any regulations. In any case, the label of a table wine must follow a precise structure and comply with certain rules laid down in EC Regulation 479/2008. The wording 'wine on the label tells you that that product:

  • is obtained from the alcoholic fermentation partial or total of fresh grapes - whether crushed or not - or of grape must;
  • has atotal acidity expressed as tartaric acid not less than 3.5 g/l.

The mandatory information is:

  • the words 'wine';
  • the country of production (e.g. Produced in Italy);
  • the bottler;
  • the production batch;
  • the alcoholic strength;
  • the volume of the vessel.

The optional information is:

  • possible adjective indicating colour (red, white or rosé);
  • possible adjective 'liqueur-like' if the alcoholic strength exceeds 15%vol.

Prohibited information is:

  • vintage year;
  • grape variety(ies) used.

Italian wine labelling: PGI wines

PGI stands for Protected Geographical Indication and has replaced the traditional nomenclature IGT.

The mandatory information is:

  • type (e.g. Toscana Rosso);
  • classification (e.g. PGI) written in full (Protected Geographical Indication);
  • sulphite indication;
  • vintage (only for still wines);
  • the country of production (e.g. Produced in Italy);
  • the bottler;
  • the production batch;
  • the alcoholic strength;
  • the volume of the vessel.

The optional information is:

  • manufacturer
  • trade name
  • trademark
  • eventual symbol of organic farming;
  • possible adjective 'liqueur-like' if the alcoholic strength exceeds 15%vol.

Prohibited information is:

  • / In general, the specification must be complied with.

Italian wine labelling: PDO wines

DOP stands for Protected Designation of Origin and has replaced the traditional nomenclature DOC - Denominazione d'Origine Controllata - and DOCG - Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita - although these are often still present on labels.

The mandatory information is:

  • type (e.g. Romagna Sangiovese);
  • classification (e.g. PDO) written in full (Protected Designation of Origin);
  • sulphite/allergen indication;
  • vintage (only for still wines);
  • eventual symbol of organic farming;
  • the country of production (e.g. Produced in Italy);
  • the bottler;
  • the production batch;
  • the alcoholic strength;
  • the volume of the vessel.

The optional information is:

  • producer;
  • trade name;
  • trademark;
  • indication of a precise geographical area;
  • indication of the production method;
  • possible symbol of organic farming (mandatory on the traditional DOCG label);
  • possible adjective 'liqueur-like' if the alcoholic strength exceeds 15%vol.

Prohibited information is:

  • / In general, the specification must be complied with.

As always, I hope I have been helpful. If you have any questions or queries, please leave me a comment below!

Cheers 🥂

Chiara

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