Italy is according to the 2010 stats from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations the largest wine producing country in the world with France being 2nd and Spain 3rd. In order to make it easier for consumers to find the wine that they are looking for there are four wine classifications for Italian wine. Two of them fall under the EU category for Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) with the other two falling under the category table wine.
Let’s start with table wine:
- Vino da Tavola (VDT)
Vino da Tavola describes very basic wine. The label usually only denotes that the wine is made in Italy. It does not indicate what grapes are used or where they are from. Vino da Tavola does usually not get exported.
- Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)
Wine classified as IGT is still considered table wine. The label was introduced in 1992 to distinguish simple VDT-classified wine from wine produced within a specific region and which are considered to be of higher quality. These wines often don’t meet the strict QWPSR laws for their area since these laws often don’t allow the creation of more “modern” wines with grapes that are typically not found in that region. A good example of a high-quality IGT wine is the Dandarin from Trabucchi d’Illasi. It’s classified as IGT Veneto but convinces more than many of the Valpolicella DOC/DOCG wines found in that area. As of today there are 118 IGT zones.
Quality Wine produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR)
- Denominazione d’Origine Controllata (DOC)
This appellation guarantees stricter laws regarding grapes permitted and also has more specific areas compared to IGT. Currently there are a total of 344 DOC zones. Famous DOC’s include Montepulcian d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese di Romagna, Cinque Terre, Vermentino di Sardegna, Bolgheri, Rosso di Montalcino and Valpolicella.
The system of DOC-wines was introduced in 1963 and was overhauled in 1992. The aim behind DOC is to encourage vintners to produce high-quality wine. DOC also regulates the minimum ABV that a wine needs to have.
- Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
DOCG is the most strict appellation for Italian wines. Cording to the latest list of the Italian Secretary of Agriculture there are 74 areas DOCG wine. The idea of another label was set into reality after many consumers felt that the DOC label was given to too many products far too liberal. A wine classified as DOCG is automatically classified as DOC as well. A wine-maker would always label his wine DOCG though if he is allowed to since the DOCG label is far more reputable. A wine classified as DOCG has to pass a blind-tasting test by government-licensed sommeliers. It also has to follow all DOC laws. Every one bottled with a DOCG gets sealed with a numbered governmental seal. That is to stop producers to manipulate the wine after the blind-tasting. DOCG wines are usually more pricy than DOC wines but also guarantee a high-quality product. Well-known wines in this category include Barolo, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Taurasi, Barbera d’Asti, Barbaresco, Gavi, Ghemme, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Chianti (Chianti has 8 DOCG!) and Amarone della Valpolicella.
Next to above four categories there are three additional terms in Italian wine legislation regulating certain aspects. These terms can only be found on bottles labeled DOC or DOCG.
If a wine has the word Riserva on its label than it has to have aged at least additional two years compared to the regular wine. Example: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano usually ages 12 months. Riserva of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has to age at least 36 months.
Superiore indicates that the wine has a higher ABV than needed.
Italy is home to some of the oldest wine producing areas like the Chianti. Classico distinguishes these old, often ancient wine areas from the regular DOC/DOCG labels.
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This article has been updated on January 9th 2013