Italian Wine Classification

If you’ve ever studied an Italian bottle of wine, you may have noticed some letters like DOC, DOCG, IGT or VdT. These letters are used in Italy’s designation system and will give some insight into the quality and origin of the wine. This system is similar to the French classification system, formed during a time when Italian wine was known as cheaper and of lesser quality. The same cannot be said today; though the system may be confusing, it has led to high quality and a vast selection of Italian wines. There is a lot to learn regarding the regions, grapes and producers in Italy. Here is some basic information on the classification system.

DOCG means “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita”, which really means the highest-quality, first-class wines available. These wines must pass a taste test before bottling. One of the regions known for DOCG wines is Tuscany, where Chianti and Brunello originate. There are 20 DOCGs in Italy.

DOC, the next classification, means “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” or wines made in a specific, government identified zone under certain regulations. DOC wine rules aim to preserve the character of the wine unique to Italian regions. Wines can be named for the vineyard they come from, but not the grape. There are more than 300 DOCs in Italy.

IGT is a Table Wine classification that means “Indicazione di Geografica Tipica” or wines grown in a specific, geological region. Some DOC and DOCG wines fall under this category to avoid stricter regulations. This category was added in 1992 to distinguish higher quality wines that did not conform to regional rules. There are currently 120 IGT zones in Italy. “Super Tuscan” wine blends fall under this category, which means it does not follow the standard blending rules for the region and cannot be classified as a DOCG or DOC.

VdT, like IGT, is a Table Wine Classification meaning “Vino Da Tavola.” These wines are typically the lowest quality and have little restriction, except that they must be made in Italy. However, some are popular for their quality and categorized as VdT only because they don’t conform to DOC regulations. VdT wines may be blends with Sangiovese, Barbera or Nebbiolo grapes, or even red and white grapes together.

The classification system isn’t a must-know when choosing Italian wine; it is just a guide that carries certain indications and is the result of years of history and wine production. Wine connoisseurs suggest learning the Italian regions and notable producers first. Also learning common varietals and their characteristics is one of the best ways to learn the basics of Italian wines. Then, you will be able to make wine recommendations and know what wines you want to purchase in bulk to store in your wine cellar.

Look for future blog posts with more information on Italian wines & some of the most popular varietals.

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