Above: the entrance to a classic Sicilian baglio (Image via gi+cri fargilli’s Flickr, Creative Commons License).
It was leading Italian wine blogger Alfonso who suggested that I add the term baglio to my Italian Winery Designations Explained project.
I’m so glad that he did: it’s been fascinating to research the origins and applications of the word. And it’s such a great example of how oeno-philology opens up a wonderful window on to Italy’s rich cultural history. I hope you enjoy the entry as much as I did researching and writing it.
Please click here for the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project; here for the Italian Wine Terms Translated index; and please see the Italian Winery Designations Explained glossary below.
baglio is the latest entry in my ever expanding Italian Winery Designations Project below. If you have a winery-related term that you’d like me to include, please let me know in the comment section.
baglio, literally courtyard and by extension a fortified country estate, possibly from the post-classical Latin ballium meaning outer rampart of a castle; possibly from the Arabic baha meaning open space, square, or courtyard.
The designation baglio is used widely in Sicily where it denotes a walled country estate and is often applied to contemporary wineries. It first began to appear during the seventeenth century, when Sicily’s Spanish rulers, who needed to expand wheat production for their growing empire, encouraged citizens to move from the major cities into the Sicilian hinterland, which, at the time was largely undeveloped. Widespread banditry prompted the newly licensed land owners to build walled country estates around a baglio or courtyard. Fortifications helped to secure agricultural products and they also provided safety for the farmhands and their families. Thanks to this new social model, many bagli grew into small towns during Spain’s domination of the island. Today, scores of bagli lie abandoned across inland Sicily although many have been transformed into agritursimi, farm house inns where locally sourced foods and wines are served to guests.
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.
masseria, country house, estate, from the post-classical Latin mansus, mansum, mansa, meaning dwelling, house, homestead, or manor (from the Latin manere, to remain), akin to the French mas and the English manse.
The term masseria (pronounced mahs-seh-REE-ah) is used primarily in southern Italy and most widely in Puglia to denote a country estate.
maso, Alpine farm, estate, from the post-classical Latin mansus, mansum, mansa, meaning dwelling, house, homestead, or manor (from the Latin manere, to remain), akin to the French mas and the English manse.
The term maso (pronounced MAH-zoh) is used exclusively in Trentino-Alto Adige to denote a working farm and farm house. Traditionally, this term — which is shared by Italian and Ladin — referred to a ranch (i.e., a farm where animals were also raised).
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 poggione.
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.