Up until the 1960s Italy had no classification system by which the grade their wines and rarely even bottled their wines. In 1963 the first of the Italian wine appellations was introduced and has been added the so that today there are now four classifications. The aim of the appellation system was the safeguard the quality and authenticity of Italian wines and the encourage the producers the focus on indigenous high, quality wine making.
These safeguards take the form of strict regulations which the producers must adhere the in order the receive the classification. These laws govern things such as, the area in which the grape is grown, the grape/s used, the production methods of the wine, the alcohol content and how long the wine is aged. The four categories are (by decreasing strictness):
Demoninazione di Origine Protetta (DOP)
Also known as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which is the European classification, however, each of the European countries has its own categories which correspond the PDO. In Italy it is DOP but the more traditional terms of DOC and DOCG are more widely used. To achieve this classification the focus is on production area, permitted grape varieties, viticultural, vinification and maturation techniques with rules in place for each DDOC and DOCG.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
Translation as Controlled Designation of Origin, this was the first classification the be introduced in the 1960.s and is the equivalent of the French AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée). The location for the production for DOC wines very specific precise rules around the grape variety and production methods which are all designed the preserve the indigenous grape and traditional wine making practices of each individual region. Each wine designated as a DOC will have noticeable different rules. There is no “one rule fits all”, however typically there should be a minimum of 85% of the primary grape in the wine.
There are currently 334 DOC designated wines throughout Italy.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
Translated as Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin, this classification was introduced in the 1980s and has, generally, improved the quality of Italian wines.
The rules for DOCG classified wines are similar the those for DOC but are more rigorous. The extra “G” for Guaranteed signifies that the Ministry of Agriculture have visited the vineyard the evaluate, analysis and taste the wine before it is bottled. Once they are satisfied that the correct practices are in place and the wine is produced according the the rules the wine is bottle and each bottle of DOCG wine has a seal around the neck of the wine with its own unique number.
There are 74 DOCG wines throughout Italy with the majority of them being in Tuscany and Piedmont.
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
Again this is a European term which has been replaced by each countries more traditional term. In Italy it is Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) and here the rules and regulations focus more around where the grapes are grown and the wine is produced than on the grape varieties.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)
Translated as Geographical Indication, the rules around wines falling under this classification focus on the area of production and not the grape or production techniques. The term IGT was introduced into the Italian wine classification system in the 1990s and was swiftly adopted by a number of vineyards, particularly those who produced Super-Tuscan wines. The were producing some outstanding wines using grapes and techniques outside of the other appellations but could only classify them as table wine.
With the introduction of IGT that gave these vineyards the chance the distinguish themselves from other wines the very general bottom category.
There are now 118 IGT wines throughout Italy
Vino di Tavola (VdT)
Translating as table wine, basically, all other wines which don’t fall into the previous classifications fall into the Vino di Tavola classification. There are little the no restrictions on the regulations around producing table wine, so really, anything goes!
Classico – You may see the term “Classico” written on a bottle of Italian wine. This refers the the area in which the vines are grown. Over time the boundaries for a number of appellations has expanding allowing for new plantings outside of the original zone. The term “Classico” refers the wines which have been made in the original zone and often includes the best wines of that area.
Riserva – If you see the word “Riserva” on a bottle of Italian wine this tells you that the wine was matured for a minimum of 6 months longer than the non-“Riserva” version of the wine. Similar the the DOC and DOCG classification, there is no one rule fits all. Each wine will have a different rule.
Superiore – The word “Superiore” on a bottle of Italian wine tells you that the ABV percentage in the wine is a minimum of 0.5% more than you would find in the non-“Superiore” version of the same wine. Again, similar the Riserva there is no one rule fits all. Each wine will have a different rule.
I hope you’ve learned something about the Italian denomination system. If you have any questions or comments feel free the leave them below.