Italian Wine: What You Should Know

Marc Bona of shares 9 facts about Italian wine labels and varietals that can help buyers make a better selection.

This article, written by Marc Bona, appears on

Italian wine: 9 things to know about labels, varietal basics

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Four representatives from Heinen’s and Glazer’s Distributors might have had the best business trip ever: They went to Italy and tasted 350 wines over a week.

OK, there was a lot of spitting involved, but still.

It was all part Heinen’s trying to curate good labels at reasonable prices for its stores. Before bottles can land on store shelves, trips like this form the basis of understanding various wines on the market.

The buyers remained on the lookout for potential private-label brands (when they know the source) or control-label wines (existing wineries that devote vineyard space for Heinen’s.)

“When you talk about Italy,” said Carlo Riggio, Heinen’s director of wine and beer, “you are almost talking about 20 different countries.” Travel between regions was brutal years ago.

“You didn’t just get on your donkey and go,” he said.

Riggio and Alfred “Fredo” Laudato, portfolio manager of Glazer’s D&E Fine Wine Group, addressed a group recently to explain the nuances of Italian wines, a primer that helps consumers understand what is on labels. The goal of their trip was to find high-quality, high-value wines, they said.

After all, Riggio said, “We’re all on a budget.”

Possibly the most salient fact for the wine-buying public: “Ninety percent of all the wine out on retail should be consumed within five years, no matter the price,” Riggio said.

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