Naming Italian grape varieties: A few linguistic clues help decode some of the ways in which Italian grapes are referred to. For example, words like verde (green) or giallo (yellow) may refer to the color. More clues include suffixes that indicate size: -ino/a, -ello/a, -etto/a all refer to something small or diminutive, as in Dol-cetto or little sweet one. The ending -one refers to something large—an example being Amarone, whose name, according to many, defines the wine as a “big and bitter one.” Roughly, Italian grapes can be grouped into five different main naming categories encompassing the following traits:

sensory attributes such as: colour, aroma, or flavor: Verdicchio, a white grape of Le Marche, is named for its green colour or verde in Italian.

physical attributes such as the shape of the grape bunch and/or the berries: Pignolo is named after the shape of its grape bunch, which is similar to a pinecone or pigna in Italian.

viticultural characteristics or organoleptic characteristics of the wines made from the variety: Cataratto, a productive variety from Sicily, takes its name from the Italian word cataratte, or waterfalls, which refers to the waterfall-like high yields this grape was known for in the past.

perceived origin of the variety: the name Malvasia bestowed on many Italian varieties comes from the Greek city of Monemvasia.

names of people, saints or other religious reference: Prié, a native white grape of Valle d’Aosta, takes its name from the French verb prier, which means to pray.

Grape names are important in Italy because they are one of the ways in which wines are labeled. In Italy, just like in France and all of the world’s other wine producing nations, wines are labelled in a number of different ways, but most frequently in one of the following manners:

– with the varietal name;

– with the name of a specific place;

– with an invented name;

– or a combination of all the above.

See: Italy: Wine grapes.


Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.43-44.