This Week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© Understanding Italian Wine Labels Part 1

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Good Sunday morning and welcome to the WineGuyMike Radio Show.  In recent weeks we have had the opportunity to have many terrific guests on the show.  This morning though it is time to get back to what we love most and that is wine.

Today we are going to talk about Italian Red wine and how to better understand what’s on the label.  For many wine lovers this is one of those areas of the world that can be a bit daunting to understand, and that’s where I come in.  It’s my job to help you better understand challenging wine topics so you can enjoy the wine that we talk about here on the show.

Okay let’s get started; Italy has been producing wine for 3,000 years.  It is said that Italy is not a country, just a gigantic vineyard from North to South.  There are over 2 thousand labels of wine in Italy, that’s a lot of bottles to know about.  Did you know that since 2008 Italy reins as the largest producer of wine in the world?

We are not going to tackle all of Italy in one week.  When it comes to red Italian wine there are three main regions to concentrate on first, Tuscany, Piedmont, and the Veneto regions.

There are literally hundreds of indigenous grape varietals planted throughout Italy, many which we have not ever heard of in America.  The main grapes that a person needs to know about to get started with Italian wines from these three regions are; In Tuscany the Italians grow Sangiovese, in Piedmont they grow Nebbiolo, and in the Veneto region a grape known as Corvina is what is grown.

Many grape growers in Italy now are growing Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Many American viticulture areas of America likewise are growing Italian varietals of grapes too.  Just to name a couple; In the Napa Valley some grape farmers are growing Barbara grapes, in Walla Walla some farmers grow Sangiovese grapes.  Grape varietals know no boundaries; the worlds grape farmers now better understand ideal geography, weather, and soil composition that grape varietals thrive in.

Let’s take a look at how the Italian wine laws dictate what ends up in your Italian bottle of wine.  Just like there are three Red wine regions to pay attention to first begin to understand Italian wines there are three Italian wine law designations one should understand as well.

Grape growers are governed by Italian law or what is known as the DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata and DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.  You will see this printed on the label of Italian wines.  There are many Italian wines that do not adhere to wine specifications within particular regions and these wines will be designated on their label as IGT – Indicazione Geografica. 

IGT Label

IGT Label

DOC designations on a win bottle are much like that of French AOC wine laws, you will also see this designation on bottles of French wines.  The biggest difference between the DOC and AOC is that the Italian DOC has aging requirements.

The DOC governs:

  • Geographical limits of each region
  • Grapes varieties allowed in wines
  • The percentage of each grape used (Classico must be 80% Sangiovese) If the varietal is specified it must contain 85% of varietal
  • The amount of grapes that can be grown and harvested per acre
  • The minimum percentage of alcohol in a wine
  • Minimum aging requirements.  How much time a wine is aged in barrels or bottles
  • These wine laws became effective in 1963 in Italy

The difference between the DOC and DOCG is that the G in DOCG indicates that a wine is stylistically guaranteed to meet the standards set forth in Italian wine laws for specific regions.

DOCG Label

DOCG Label

Currently there are 35 DOCG wines in Italy, 7 from the Tuscany region and 9 from the Piedmont region.  There are over 300 DOC wines from Italy and many more wines that are designated IGT which just means they do not adhere to the standards set forth for a given region in which they are grown.  There are many great examples of all of these wines and you typically pay for the guarantee.  There are great IGT wines that do not adhere to the wine laws in the region or area in which they are grown, you just have to know what you are buying, but hey that’s why you keep me around.  

Arrivederci for now wine friends, enjoy these great wine selections especially priced at Liquid Planet, in the heart of Downtown Missoula.

The wines reviewed today all receive the WineGuyMike™ Seal of Approval™

The wine selections from today’s show are available today, all especially priced at Liquid Planet, in the heart of Downtown Missoula, Missoula’s ultimate wine shopping experience and the very best of beverage.

From my table to yours,

"from my table to yours"


Vietti Wine Flight Tasting at La Grotta Bella, Missoula, Montana. Hosted by Worden’s Deli and Georges Distributing

WineGuyMike attended a local wine tasting a couple of nights ago hosted at the La Grotta Bella by Worden’s Deli.  This is a weekly tasting get together of locals enjoying wine and each others company.  The cost of attending one of these tastings is $10.00 per person and they run from 5-8 in the evening.

I would recommend getting there early as the tasting is on a first come first serve basis.  The bread and olive oil go first which they are not necessarily great about replenishing.  The wine is plentiful though and ultimately that is what you are there for, so without further ado on to the wine review.

Wine # 1

Dolcetto d’Alba Tre Vigne 2008 DDOC

Dolcetto d'Alba Tre Vigne 2008 DDOC

Dolcetto d'Alba Tre Vigne 2008 DDOC

Designation: Estate-bottled Dolcetto d’Alba DDOC

Region: Alba, Piedmont, Italy

Grapes: 100% Dolcetto d’Alba.

Winemaking: The wine is fermented in stainless steel at fairly cool temperatures to preserve Dolcetto’s black cherry, raspberry and blueberry fruit aromas.  Prior to malolactic fermentation it settles to draw out the color and richness.  The wine is then racked into different stainless steel tanks for natural clarification prior to bottling.

Aging: total aging of 6 months in Slovenian oak.  Bottled unfiltered.

Description: Purple red color with a light blue hue, the Dolcetto has aromas of black cherry, raspberry and hint of blueberries and minerals.  An unoaked wine, this medium bodied red has soft tannins, moderate acidity and good balance.

Food Pairings: Grilled vegetables and casual dishes such as pizza, deli sandwiches and light pasta dishes.

Alcohol: 13.17% Alc. by vol.

Total Acidity: 5.4 g/l

Total dry extract: 26.8 g/L
Bottles: 23,500 bottles

Price offering at tasting; Bottle $19.99, Case $230.00

Wine #2

Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne 2007

Barbera D'Asti Tre Vigne 2007 DDOC

Barbera D'Asti Tre Vigne 2007 DDOC

Designation: estate-bottled Barbera d’Asti DDOC

Region: Asti, Piedmont, Italy

Grapes: 100% Barbera

Winemaking: the grapes are selected from young vineyards, approximately 10 years old, in Agliano d’Asti that are planted 4,800 plants per hectare with a yield of 39 hl/ha. The must is kept, for 12 days, in stainless steel tanks at 30-32°C.

Aging: at the end of the malolactic fermentation, the wine is moved into French oak barrels or Slavonian oak casks for 12 months, then into steel tanks 2 months before bottling.  The wine is bottled unfiltered to retain complexity.

Description: ruby purple color with ripe red cherry aromas with hints of mineral and vanilla.  A dry, medium bodied red wine with refreshing acidity (making it perfect to pair with food) and soft tannins, the Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne is well balanced with good integration of oak, good complexity and a finish of more red cherries.

Food Pairings: antipasti, rich salads, grilled seasoned vegetables, hearty soups, pastas or with breaded veal, pork, chicken with light sauces

Alcohol: 14.58 % Alc. by vol.

Total Acidity: 5.9 g/L.

Total dry extract: 30.6 g/L.

Bottles: 60,580

Price offering at tasting; Bottle $$17.99, Case $205.00

Wine #3

Nebbiolo Perbacco 2006

Nebbiolo Perbacco 2006 DDOC

Nebbiolo Perbacco 2006 DDOC

Designation: Estate-bottled, DDOC

Region: Piedmont, Italy

Grapes: 100% Nebbiolo

Winemaking: The grapes are selected from different vineyards of Nebbiolo for Barolo: from Scarrone, Bricco Boschis, Valletta in Castiglione Falletto, Fossa in Barolo and Ravera of Novello village.  The average age of the vines is 35 years, and the plants per hectare are 4,500.  All vineyards are vinified and aged separately. 18-21 days of alcoholic fermentation between 28°-35°. It follows the malolactic in stainless steel tank and barrels.

Aging: The first part of the ageing is done in barriques for 10 months ( only some cru wineyards ) and then in Slovenian oak casks for other 16 months. Before the last blending for the bottling of our Barolo Castiglione, we select the casks to use for our Nebbiolo Perbacco.

Description: fromPale ruby color with aromas of ripe cherries with hints of spice. With gripping tannins, fresh acidity, this Nebbiolo shows finesse, is well-balanced, integration and a lingering finish of rose petals.

Food Pairings: Hearty stew, wild game, roasted red meats and sharp, aged cheeses

Alcohol: 13.5% Alc. by vol

Total Acidity: 5.8g/l

Bottles: 70,000

Price offering at tasting; $17.99 Bottle, $205.00 Case

Wine #4

Barolo Castiglione 2005 DOCG

Barolo Castiglione 2005 DOCG

Barolo Castiglione 2005 DOCG

Designation: estate-bottled, Barolo DOCG

Region: Barolo, Piedmont, Italy

Grapes: 100% Nebbiolo

Winemaking: the grapes are selected from vineyards located in Castiglione Falletto, Monforte, Barolo and Novello where the vines are planed an average of 4,800 vines per hectare.   The vines are 7 to 35 years old with yields of 38 hl/ha, grown using the Guyot system.  After harvesting, the grapes are gently pressed.  Fermentation in stainless steel occurs over 15 days, with daily cap submersion for extraction of flavor and color.

Aging: the wine is then aged for 24 months in casks.  The wine was blended in stainless steel tanks 8 months before bottling.  Unfiltered.

Description: pale ruby color with garnet hues and powerful aromas of rich, ripe cherries with intricate complexities of spice, tea leaves and rose petals. With strong, rich tannins, crisp acidity and masculine structure, this ageworthy Barolo shows incredible finesse with excellent balance, integration and a long, lingering finish.

Food Pairings: hearty stew, wild game, roasted red meats and sharp, aged cheeses.
Alcohol: 14.02% Alc. by vol.

Total Acidity: 5.8 g/L.

Total dry extract: 27.8 g/L.

Bottles: 37,335 bottles

Price offering at tasting; $44.99 Bottle, $530.00 Case

This was a nice flight of wines, particularly if you like light to medium bodied dry red Italian wines.  These are all wines I would enjoy now an not worry about aging.  From my table to yours.