This post originally went live on May 5. Please continue to send me your suggestions, queries, corrections by leaving comments below. Most recently added: ca’, cantina, casa, vignaiolo (May 18).
Yesterday, while I was attending a tasting with one of the leading wine professionals in the country, Texan Master Sommelier Guy Stout (above, at Vinitaly), he asked about the meaning and origin of the term podere. Guy is a true mensch, a wonderful character, and a beloved figure in the Texas and U.S. wine scene. He has mentored a generation (literally) of wine professionals studying for their Master Sommelier exams. Getting to taste with him is always a pleasure and an enlightening experience. A lot of people ask me to explain the meanings and origins of Italian winery designations. So I decided to write a hand-list of terms used commonly in the names of wineries in Italy. I hope it will be helpful to Master Sommelier candidate and anyone who shares my passion for Italian wine. I’ve included etymologies (studies of their origins) because believe that the etymon (origin) helps to shed light on the meanings of the designations. This post is dedicated fondly to Guy. (Photos by Alfonso Cevola, his friend and colleague.)
azienda, landed property, estate, domestic work, from the Spanish hacienda, from the Latin facienda meaning things to be done from facere, to do.
The term azienda means business and is used to denote a company or firm in Italian. An azienda agricola is a farming business; an azienda vinicola is a winery (a wine business).
ca’, see entry for casa.
cantina, literally cellar or cool place to store perishable goods and by extension tavern, probably from the Italian canto meaning angle or corner from the Greek kampthos, bend or angle.
The word cantina has a wide variety of applications in Italy (often used for restaurants and food stores, as well as wineries) and can be found across Italy to denote wine cellar.
casa, literally, a building, house, or habitation, from the Latin casa, a small house, cottage, hut, cabin, shed.
The term casa is used throughout Italy as a winery designation and is often abbreviated as ca’, as in Ca’ del Bosco (it’s important to note that it’s often erroneously abbreviated as Cà [using the accent grave diacritic], when in fact the inverted comma [‘] denotes the elision of the final two letters, often derived from a dialectal locution). A casa vinicola (pronounced KAH-sah vee-NEE-koh-lah) is a winery/négociant.
cascina, farm house or other structure used to house livestock or farm tools, from the late Latin capsia meaning case or receptacle.
It can also denote a structure used to store cheese and other dairy products. The term is used primarily northern Italy and especially in Piedmont to denote a farmhouse or winery or dairy farm.
fattoria, farm, from the Latin factore, literally maker, from facere meaning to do.
You find usage of fattoria generally in Tuscany where it can denote a winery or a farm, keeping in mind that most wine-producing estates in Tuscany also grow olives and other crops.
podere, country estate with farm house (according to the Zingarelli dictionary), akin to the Italian potere, meaning can or to have the ability to do, from the late Latin, potere, from the Latin possum, meaning to be able, have power.
The term is used today primarily in Tuscany where it denotes, literally, a seat of [agricultural] power, hence the late Latin origin of the word, potere, literally power or possession (who also share kinship with the Latin etymon). According to the Cortelazzo etymological dictionary, the word first appears in the Middle Ages in northern Italy.
poggio, hill, from the Latin podium, meaning an elevated place, a height.
As Virgil wrote famously, Bacchus amat colles, Bacchus loves hills. The usage of poggio in Tuscany is documented dating back to the thirteenth century and the term appears in Dante. There are many related words like poggiolo, poggiuolo, and in the case of one of my favorite wineries, poggione. Guy and I were tasting yesterday with the nice folks from Banfi: Poggio alle Mura and Poggio all’Oro (the hill at the village walls and the gold hill, respectively) were among the wines in the flight.
ronco, literally a growing site on a hill used for farming, from the Latin runco, meaning to weed out, root up; to weed, clear of weeds, akin to the Friulian dialectal term ronc.
To my knowledge, ronco is used exclusively in Friuli. Akin to the Italian roncola or pruning hook, it probably comes from the past participle of the Friulian runcar (to clear of weeds, runcà, in other words, a site cleared for planting.
tenuta, a [land] holding or property, past participle of the Italian tenere, from the Latin teneo, meaning to hold, have, or keep.
Tenuta is a term that you see applied across northern and central Italy. Its relation to the pre-industrial age, when land ownership denoted nobility, is clear.
vignaiolo (plural vignaioli), vine tender or grape grower, derived from the Italian vigna, meaning vine, from the Latin vinea, vineyard, from the Latin vinum, wine.
Pronounced VEEN-y’eye-OH-loh (plural VEEN-y’eye-OH-lee), vignaiolo is used to denote a winery that uses estate-grown fruit in the production of its wines.
I hope this post is helpful to wine professionals and laypersons alike! If I forgot a term and/or if you have other terms you’d like me to write about and explain, please leave a comment. Thanks for reading!