A Guide to Italian Vineyard Terms

Deciphering designations made easy

 


Italy is a land of vines -- after all, the Greeks did indeed call it “Enotria” (the land of wine) -- so it’s not surprising that Italians have so many terms for their vineyards. Part of the key to solving the puzzle that can be Italian wine labels is learning how Italian vineyards get their names.

It seems as though each Italian vineyard has been analyzed and cataloged, yielding a slew of terms that help to distinguish the best Italian vineyards from all the rest. Some of these names are so similar to other commonly used words that it might be confusing (but we’re going to fix that), while others seem rooted in a specific region’s dialect. Don’t worry, we’ll have all the Italian vineyard designations sorted out in due time. Let’s begin with the following list of Italian vineyard designations.

Vigna
Vigna is the Italian term for “vine.” Vigne is the plural. Vigna or vigne is often used as a casual way to refer to a vineyard, or part of a vineyard. Sometime you might see Le Vigne del XXXX as a reference on a wine label, referring to the vines of XXXX as the source of the grapes used for said wine, though this is not an officially recognized term.

Vigneto
Vigneto is the standard Italian term for “vineyard.” It refers to a specific parcel of land used to cultivate grapes, usually for the production of wine. It is often found on the label of an Italian wine, followed by the name of the vineyard.

Vigneti
Vigneti is the plural form of vigneto. It is rare to find this term used on an Italian wine label, and when you do it generally refers to a winery, which is named, as in this case, the vineyards of Massa.

Vitigno
Vitigno refers to a specific variety of vine. It’s a hard phrase to translate into English. It roughly translates into “variety," but is used exclusively with grape vines. In common usage it can be translated as “varietal," although when used correctly in English, varietal is an adjective used to describe a wine made from a specific grape variety.

Bricco or Bric
Bricco, or bric, is one of the most common terms found on Italian wine label, primarily on Piedmontese wines. The terms are somewhat interchangeable and generally refer to the top of a hill. For various reasons this may not equate with the warmest pockets on a hillside, but they certainly benefit from great sun exposure.

The bricco were historically identified as the piece of a hill where the snow first melted away. I have heard that bricco is also an Old Italian term for “kettle” or “cast iron cauldron,” which would lend credence to the idea that is denotes a warm spot.

Ronco
Ronco also means hilltop or hillside vineyard, and is used in Friuli. In Trentino, the term ranga has the same meaning.

Sori
Sori, on the other hand, refers to the top of a hill. It’s not a common word but is quite famous since the Piedmontese producer Gaja features it prominently on his labels. In fact, the wines that Gaja once labeled as Barbaresco are now named after their respective sori.

Conca
Unlike sori, bricco, and ronco, conca means a depression or shallow in a hillside, and generally refers to an area that captures the warmth of the day and is shielded from winds.

Poggio
Poggio is a very common word, primarily found on Tuscan wines. In common parlance it has come to mean hillside, and literally means “hill.” But, as is frequently the case, there may very well be more to the story. Appoggiare in Italian means "to support"; many top hillside vineyards in Tuscany are planted on terraced vineyards. Large terraces are called poggione. So, it may very well be that a poggio was a terraced vineyard, and not just any old hill, though that is how it is commonly used.

Maso
In Trentino, maso are self-contained homesteads. A maso or mas will include a home and farm outbuildings, as well as the surrounding lands that are used to support the farm. In Piedmont, the term cascina has approximately the same meaning.

Tenuta
Tenuta is a common word in Italy and is used to signify a particular land holding. Tenuto in Italian is literally translated as “held." It’s an older term and refers to the lands held by nobility.

Podere
Similar in use to the term tentuta, but with an added level of power. In contrast to the rather static implication of “holding” land, the word podere shares its root with the Italian words for “power” and “ability." The implication is that while you may have enjoyed the benefits of a tenuta, with a podere you had additional rights. In any event, both are rather neutral terms today, and used most frequently in Tuscany.

Sodi
A sodi is a piece of land that was historically very difficult to work. It's valued today because, as we have learned, poor soil is ideal for producing premium quality wines. Back in the day, these parcels were tended as penance or punishment!

Località
Literally, località means “locality” in Italian, though in wine labeling usage it translates more closely to "surroundings." This common usage harkens back to the days when plots of land were associated with individuals and family groups that lived in borghettos and other small settlements. The usage of località referred to the lands that surrounded and supported those settlements.

To view the photos for this article, go to Italian Vineyard Terms Explained.

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Comments

  • Snooth User: Al Faison
    196612 155

    My interst in Italian and French wines increases with each article I read. Could you maybe show a pronunciation in parenthases after the Italian or French words and names of the wine producing areas. It would give me much more confidence to request a wine from a particular area if I knew that I was at least pronouncing it correctly. Thanks!

    Nov 30, 2010 at 5:59 PM


  • Snooth User: TerreFedericianeSrl
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    674987 53

    Hi Al... if you look on wordreference.com you can see all the correct pronunciations. If you want to hear the words spoken, you have to look on this site (it's a dictionary): http://www.dizionario.rai.it/
    Unfortunately it is in Italian (I can't find a similar site in English), but if you write the word in the box labelled "Scrivi la voce:", and then press on the "Cerca" button, then you will find the searched word in a list. If you press on the word appeared from the list, a popup with the definition of the term will open and you'll have also a button on which you can press to hear the word spoken. Strangely not all the words are in the dictionary (I didn't found Vigna, but Vigneti yes), but as Italian letters sounds always the same, you can have easily understand the right pronunciations for the missing terms.

    Feb 02, 2011 at 12:39 PM


  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    For pronunciations google translate is great, u can listen every word in this article and with a good pronunciations. Write just single words because voice reproduces the sequence of all words.

    The article is great! Very well explained and accurate.

    Dec 11, 2011 at 7:04 PM


  • well

    Aug 30, 2013 at 3:06 AM


  • Snooth User: Helen Poole
    1337036 29

    nice

    Aug 30, 2013 at 5:30 AM


  • Snooth User: anvilpep
    1370081 34

    The article is great! Very well explained and accurate.

    Read more: http://www.snooth.com/articles/guid...

    Sep 24, 2013 at 12:44 AM


  • It's interesting

    Oct 07, 2013 at 12:03 AM


  • good

    Jan 21, 2014 at 12:47 AM


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