Enoteca (pl.: enoteche) is an Italian word that is derived from the Greek word Οινοθήκη, which literally means "wine repository" (from Oeno/Eno- Οινός "wine", and teca Θήκη, "receptacle, case, box"), but it is used to describe a special type of local or regional wine shop that originated in Italy. The concept of an enoteca has also spread to some other countries.
A genuine enoteca is primarily directed at giving visitors or tourists the possibility to taste these wines at a reasonable price and possibly to buy them. An enoteca is often run in collaboration with growers or growers' or tourism organisations in the village or region. The reason such establishments were named to connote "wine libraries" was that they were intended as a hands-on source of information on local wines rather than as regular outlets for larger quantities of each wine, or primarily intended for established customers. Often, an enoteca stocks rather small amounts of each wine, and customers who wish to purchase large quantities after tasting are referred directly to the producers. In some cases, an enoteca will also sell other local foodstuff and/or serve small snacks to go with the wines.
A long-standing tradition that precedes the new coinage, is the wine shop in Palazzo Antinori, Florence, where Antinori wines have been available by the glass for more than a century.
Being associated with an enoteca is likely more beneficial to smaller, not too well-known producers than to large or well-established ones. Casual visitors will have an easier time discovering an enoteca, and the producer will not have to keep an outlet open in his winery just in case someone passes by to purchase a few bottles. On the other hand, having many wines are available side-by-side for tasting, comparison and competition, will be better for well-performing wineries.
Other uses of the term
Wine shops and restaurants
Because of the popularity of the enoteca concept in some locations, "regular high-end" wine shops sometimes also call themselves enoteca or Vinothek, without focusing on local wines or catering to visitor's information need. A quality wine shop is most often called enoteca in Italian now. In the past bottiglieria was commonly used, but is now falling into disuse and doesn't have the same connotation of quality.
Enoteca, Vinothek or œnothèque (the corresponding French term) may also be used to denote "wine libraries" in two additional meanings of the word:
- An information repository about wine.
- A storage facility for actual wines. As an example, champagne producer Moët & Chandon produces a late-disgorged version of their prestige cuvée Dom Pérignon, called "Dom Perignon Œnothèque", which spends a number of extra years in Moët & Chandon's cellar before being released.
- J. Robinson (ed), "The Oxford Companion to Wine", Third Edition, p 255, Oxford University Press 2006, ISBN 0-19-860990-6
- Virbila, S. Irene. "Tasting the Fruit Of the Italian Vine", The New York Times, June 19, 1988. Accessed November 12, 2023. "Though the term enoteca usually denotes a wine store, it sometimes means a wine bar (usually part of the store) where the wandering oenophile can explore Italian vintages from just one region or from all over Italy."