Tuscany Wine Terms

by winenews on Jul.22, 2007, under Articles, Travel

Perhaps no region of the world personifies the warmth and graciousness of good food and great wine more completely than Tuscany. Its sunny slopes, medieval towns, and rich cultural history provide an irresistible setting for such inviting cuisine and wines.  Throughout its colorful history, Tuscany has been a land of important artists and scientists, talented and forward-thinking merchants, and powerful politicians. Its castles, culture, and natural wonders make it a unique and memorable destination for millions of tourists every year.

Tuscany’s museums, sights, and edible delights are unsurpassed. A special mystique and light envelops this region of Italy, distinct from anywhere else in Europe .

What is Chianti?
There are seven sub zones within Tuscany that can call their wine Chianti all within the Tuscan provinces of Arezzo, Firenze (Florence), Pistoia, and Siena. This area encompasses 1.2 million acres, much of it made up of schistose clay with mixtures of flint, limestone, pebbles, and sand. The Chainti Classico subzone is located south of Florence and north of Siena, covering 173,000 acres.

Chianti is produced from a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other non traditional varietals.  Chianti Classico must be 80% Sangiovese and might have some white grapes in the blend.  It is normally aged for 18-24 months in oak.  Chianti Classico Riserva is the top quality Chianti, has no white grapes, and is aged in oak for 3 years or more.

What is Sangiovese?
Sangiovese is the prominent grape of many Tuscan wines, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and other barrel-aged wines. The Tuscan winemaking style calls for Sangiovese to be blended with other varieties, but it is the Sangiovese that gives the character, perfume, and structure to the wines.

What is DOCG?
Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita (DOCG) stands for a “controlled and guaranteed appellation of origin.” This designation controls the quality of the wine under established government standards that define the region, grape varieties, per-acre yields, aging requirements, and other factors.  There is also a lesser designation known as DOC, with fewer restrictions and control.

Reading a Typical Chianti Label:

In general, there are as many Chianti label designs as there are wineries. Each label design is unique to the particular winery, but all include essential information about the wine, as required by Italian governmental and U.S. Federal regulations.

For example, Castello di Gabbiano’s wine labels are not only colorful and informative but also easy to understand.  Castello di Gabbiano makes three types of Chianti, one of which Riserva, is estate grown and bottled. The other two are Chianti Classico and Chainti DOCG.  All of the Gabbiano Chianti are classified as DOCG, the highest quality standard the Italian government awards to wines from recognized winegrowing zones. Castello di Gabbiano’s wines all feature the distinctive and memorable Cavaliere or knight on horseback bearing a winged helmet, standard, and shield. This Cavaliere was part of a long-lost fresco that once adorned the castle walls. It is believed that one of the noble families who resided in the castello commissioned the fresco to mark an important event or battle.

The fresco depicted the Cavaliere with a group of riders that were in a joust or parade and is also symbolic of the warrior knights that protected the landowners from invasion in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the fresco was destroyed during World War II when bombing in the area crumbled that portion of the castle wall.

The image of Castello di Gabbiano’s Cavaliere was preserved in an original preliminary drawing of the fresco. This centuries-old drawing, called a sinopia, has an elegant design attributed to the Florentine artistic tradition.

Typically at the bottom of the label are the bottle size (contents in ML), usually a vineyard location or site of production, plus the alcohol content.  Also shown might the designation of DOC or DOCG to indicate the approved government guarantee of the wines origin and vinification standards.

A to Z Guide to Tuscan Wine

Tuscany is a cornucopia of diverse wines, and Chianti is the Heart & Soul of Tuscany ’s wine country.  Chianti Classico has some of Italy ’s best red wines.  Here are some terms used throughout Tuscany to describe the region and its wines.

Azienda agricola (AH ZYEHN DAH. AH GREE KOH LAH)
Wine Estate

Amàbile (AH MAH BEE LEH)

Amaro (AH MAH ROH)

Annata (AHN NAH TAH)
Vintage date

Barrique (BAHR REE KEH )
50- to 60- gallon oak barrel often used to age non-traditional wines


Botte (BOHT TEH)
Traditional 500-gallon wood barrel for aging wine

Bottìglia / Bottiglierìa (BOHT TEE LYAH / BOHT TEE LYEH REE AH)
Bottle / Wine shop

Full-bodied, complex red wine; intense herbal-cherry flavors.  Always 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes (called Brunello by locals) from Montalcino, south of Siena .

Caratello (KAHR AH TEHL LOH)
20- to 25-gallon wood barrel used to age wine, such as Vin Santo.

Carmignano (CAHR MEE NYAH NOH)
Intense, full-bodied red wine.  Cherry flavor.  From hills northwest of Florence .  Sangiovese with other red and white grapes added.

Cavatappi (KAH VAH TAHP PEE)

Chianti (KYAHN TEE)
One of Italy’s most famous wine regions with seven zones.  Covers most of central Tuscany , including the hills from Florence to Siena .  Medium to full-bodied red wine. Cherry and blabkberry flavors. 75-100% Sangiovese grapes.  DOCG codes ensure quality.  Castello di Gabbiano sits in the prestigious Chianti Classico zone.

DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)
The Italian government’s first wine quality codes—dictate geographic origin, grapes varieties, and vineyard and winemaking practices.

DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita)
Highest wine rating with the most stringent codes—specify geographic origin, grape varieties, and vineyard and winemaking practices.  Wines approved by government tasters.


Enoteca (EH NOH TEH KAH)
Wine shop

Fattoria (FAHT TOH REE AH)
Estate, farm.

Frizzante (FREE TZAHN THE)
Slightly sparkling

Galestro (GAH LEHS TROH)
Simple, easy drinking white wine from Chianti area.

Grappa (GRAHP PAH)
Distilled drink made from grape skins, seeds and stems leftover from winemaking.  Sold in bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors.  A specialty of Friuli where it is customary to swirl grappa in dinner’s espresso cup and drink it down.

IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica)
Newest government category often assigned to non-traditional wines, such as, “Super Tuscans”.  Varietal, vintage and vineyard can be listed on the label.

Moscadello di Montalcino (MOHS KAH DEHL LOH. DEE . MOHN TAHL CHEE NOH)
Sweet white wine of Muscat grapes grown around Montalcino.

Passito (PAHS SEE TOH)
A method of making wine using grapes that are hung to dry or dried on mats.

Pomino Bianco (POH MEE NOH. BYAHN KOH)
Dry, full-bodied rich white wine, usually oak-aged.  Blend of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay grapes—grown just east of Florence .

Pomino Rosso (POH MEE NOH. ROHS SOH)
A red wine made of Sangiovese, Merlot, cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir grapes.  Produced in the hills just east of Florence .  Flavors of blueberry and cassis.

Rosato / Rosso (ROH SAH TOH /  ROHS SOH)
Rosé / red

Sassicaia (SAHS SEE KAHY AH)
Famous, expensive red wine from Bolheri on Tuscany ’s coast.  Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and cabernet Franc.  The original “Super Tuscan”.  Ripe blackberry flavors often with oak.

Secco (SEHK KOH)

Spumante (SPOO MAHN THE)

Super Tuscan
Non-traditional Tuscan wines; often a winery’s best wine.  Expensive.  Varietals vary—Sangiovese, Merlot, Syah, and Cabernet Sauvignon are popular (blends to 100%). Often oak-aged.

Vendemmia (VEHN DEHM MYAH)

Vernaccia di San Gimignano (VEHR NAHCH CHYAH. DEE . SAHN. GEE MEE NYAH NOH)
Dry white wine;rich herbal flavors. Vernaccia grapes from San Gimignano.

Vino da Tavola (VEE NOH DAH. TAH VOH LAH)
Lowest wine category; cannot list region, grape varietal or vintage on label.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (VEE NOH. NOH BEE LEH. DEE . MOHN TEH POOL CHYAH NOH)
Full-bodied red wine.  Sangiovese grapes blended with other varietals.  Similar to Chianti, but more complex.

Vin Santo (VEEN. SAHN TOH)
Dessert wine

A to Z Guide to Tuscan Food

Tuscan food is simple and delicious.  Typical Herbs are Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, and Basil.  Italians love bread soup (ribollita) and salad (panzanella), and are addicted to grilled bread with garlic (bruschette).  The finest olive oil in Italy is fresh in the Fall.  They also enjoy grilled & roasted rabbit, duck & pork (arista), and wild boar in winter.

Agnello (AH NYEHL LOH)
Lamb, a Tuscan favorite

Al forno (AHL FOHR NOH)

Ànatra (AH NAH TRAH)
Duck.  Popular in meat sauce in Tuscany

Anguilla (AHN GWEEL LAH)
Eel. In Tuscany , cooked in tomato sauce

Arista (AH REES TAH)
Roasted pork loin, seasoned with rosemary and garlic.

Arrosto (AHR ROHS TOH)

Arrabbiata – all’ arrabbiata (AHL LAHR RAHB BEE YAH TAH)
“Angry” tomato pasta sauce with olive oil and hot red peppers

Bistecca alla fiorentina (BEES TEHK KAH. AHL LAH. FYOH REHN TEE NAH)
Tuscany ’s famous thick steak from the local Chianina cattle.  Typically serves two; sold by the etto (3-1/2 ounces). Expensive.  Usually cooked very rare (al sangue).  Medium is media; ben cotto is well done.

Bollito (BOHL LEE TOH)
Boiled or stewed

Brace – alla brace (AHL LAH. BRAH CHEH)
Grilled over charcoal

Braciola / bracioletta (BRAH CHYOH LAH / BRAH CHYOH LEHT TAH)
Chop / small slice of meat

Brasato (BRAH SAH TOH)
Braised beef; cooked in red wine

Bruschette (BROOS SKEHT TAH)
Tuscany ’s garlic bread.  Grilled, rubbed with raw garlic, sprinkled with olive oil and salt

Tuscan almond cookies, also called Biscotti di Prato. Served with Vin Santo wine

Capra (KAH PRAH)

Artichokes.  An antipasto or pasta sauce in Tuscany .

Popular Tuscan chestnut flour cake with raisins, nuts, and rosemary

Garbanzo beans; Chick peas.  Popular side dish in Tuscany , with olive oil and rosemary or pureed in soup

Cinghiale (CHEEN GYAH LEH)
Wild boar.  A Tuscan favorite—in sauce (sugo di cinghiale), prosciutto, salame and sausage

Coniglio (KOH NEE LYOH)
Rabbit—One of Tuscany ’s favorite meats

Costa / costoletta / costarelli (KOHS TAH / KOHS TOH LEHT TAH / KOHS TAH REHL LEE)
Chop / Cutlet / Rib / spareribs.  Costada di manzo is rib steak.
Meat cuts are very different from US cuts

Cozze (KOH TSEH)

Crespelle (KREHS PEHL LEH)

Crostata (KROHS TAH TAH)
Cake / Pie with thin layer of fruit or jam

Fagiano (FAH JAH NOH)
Pheasant—All game is popular in Tuscany

Fagioli (FAH JOH LEE)
Beans—very popular side dish or soup.  Fagioli all’uccelletto, a Tuscan bean dish, is seasoned with sage, garlic and tomatoes.

Fegato / Fegatini (FEH GAH TOH / FEH GAH TEE NEE)
Liver / chicken liver—In Tuscany , liver is often used in meat sauce

Fatto in casa (FAHT TOH. EEN. CAH ZAH)

Fetta di / fettina (FEHT TAH. DEE / FEHT TEE NAH)
Slice of / thin slice

Fettunta (FEHT TOON TAH)
Toasted slice of Tuscan bread with olive oil

Finòcchio (FEE NOHK YOH)
Fresh fennel—cherry like with anise flavor

Finocchiona (FEE NOHK KYOH NAH)
Tuscan salame with fennel seeds

Formaggio (FOHR MAHJ JOH)
Cheese—Pecorino isTuscany’s famous cheese

Funghi (FOON GHEE)
Mushrooms, usually porcini

Gàmberi / gamberétto / gamberoni (GAHM BEH REE / GAHN BEH REHT TOH / GAHN BEH ROH NEE)
Prawns / crayfish / large prawns

Ghiótta – alla ghiótta (AHL LAH. GYOT TAH)
Basted with seasonings while grilling

Granchio (GRAHN KYOH)

Griglia—alla griglia (AHL LAH. GREE LYAH)
Grilled over charcoal

Lèpre (LEH PREH)
Hare or rabbit—One of the most popular meats in Tuscany

Lésso (LEHS SOH)

Lombata (LOHM BAH TAH)

Manzo (MAHN ZOH)

Maiale (MAHY AH LEH)

Milza (MEEL ZAH)
Spleen—Often combined with liver as a topping for crostini

Olio d’oliva (OH LYOH. DOH LEE VAH )
Olive oil.  In Tuscany , it’s the main cooking fat.  It’s also
a condiment, drizzled over soup and pasta, for example.  Extra virgin, from the first pressing, is the finest—Best purchased in the fall, just after pressing

Panforte (PAHN FOHR THE)
A dense sweet cake from Siena made of nuts, spices and dried fruit

Panzanella (PAHN ZAH NEHL LAH)
This Tuscan first-course dish is made of bread, tomatoes, onions, basil and olive oil.

Pappa col pomodoro (PAH PAH. COHL. POH MOH DOH ROH)
A Tuscan tomato-bread soup

Papparadelle (PAHP PAHR AH DEHL LEH)
Very Tuscan—1-inch wide, flat pasta—Often served with wild boar (sugo di cinghiale), hare (sugo di leper) or duck (sugo di ànatra) sauce

Pecorino (PEH KOH REE NOH)
A Tuscan sheep’s milk cheese, fresh (fresca) or aged.  Best is from Pienza

Penne (PEHN NEH)
Hollow, quill-shaped pasta, about 2-inches long

Petto (PEHT TOH)
Breast, i.e. chicken


A round, but irregular, pasta like spaghetti, but much thicker and more rustic—Very Tuscan

Pollo (POHL LOH)
Chicken—Pollo alla diavola is Tuscany ’s spicy grilled chicken

Polpo / polipo (POHL POH / POH LEE POH)
Octopus.  Polpetti are baby octopus

Prosciutto (PROH SHOOT TOH)
‘crudo’ is air-dried ham, finer in texture and drier than cooked ham.  In Tuscany , where it is often made from wild boar, it is sliced more thickly than in other parts of
Italy . ‘Cotto’ is cooked ham.

Ribolitta (REE BOH LEET TAH)
Tuscan twice-boiled bread soup

A chewy almond cookie from Siena


Sàlvia (SAHL VYAH)
Sage, a favorite in Tuscany .  Salvia Fritta (fried sage) s popular.

Soppressata (SOHP PREHS SAH TAH)
Course Tuscan salame, like headcheese

Sugo (SOO GOH)
Juice from meat or tomato sauce

Tagliatelle (TAH LYAH TEHL LEH)
Long ⅛ inch wide noodles, similar to fettuccine

Tagliolini / tagliarini (TAH LYOH LEE NEE / TAH LYAH REE NEE)
1/16- inch wide noodles

Tortelloni / tortelli (TOHR TEHL LOH NEE / TOHR TEHL LEE)
Large stuffed pasta / stuffed pasta similar to ravioli

Umido- in umido (EEN. OO MEE DOH)
Braised; cooked in liquid

Vitello (VEE TEHL LOH)

Vóngole (VOHN GOH LEH)

Zucca (ZOOK KAH)
Similar to pumpkin; popular in ravioli or tortelli

Zuppa (ZOOP PAH)
Soup—Minestra also means soup or first course.

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