Understanding Italian Wine Classifications
Posted on 20 April 2022
Italian wine classifications, the likes of DOCG and IGT, can sometimes seem a confusing plethora of letters and synonyms that arguably confuse more than they explain.
Once you know what they mean, however, they can unlock the world of Italian wines from up and down the country to all of us wine lovers. In this week’s blog we’ll give a brief history and description of the levels of classification.
We’ll also give you a few little tips for the best value wines and rarities to discover
along the way.
Why Do We Use Classifications in Wine?
Many wine countries and regions across the world use classifications for their wines in to protect both the producers and the consumers and guarantee a level of quality. It’s not just in wine.
In the UK, the likes of Melton Mowbray Pies or Stilton Cheese are protected designations.
The idea being is that if you buy a Melton Mowbray Pie from any shop in the world then it’s guaranteed to have been made in Melton from quality ingredients and to a designated recipe.
Classifications have been used in some form in the world of wine for hundreds of years. In the early 18 th, for example, Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici laid down laws to protect the production of Chianti wines.
It wasn’t until the 1930s in France, however, that the idea of large scale classifications began to take place, with the Appellation (AOC) system which is arguably a precursor to the Italian classification system that we use today.
What Kinds of Things Are Specified in the Rules?
Pretty much everything involved in the production of wine is usually addressed within classification rules, from harvest dates to sometimes even packaging.
Amongst the many, the main rules centre around the specified geographical region you can grow the grapes and vinify the wine, the grape varieties allowed in the wine (as either a single varietal or as a blend) and the maximum grape yield allowed for each vine.
What Are The Classifications?
Vino Da Tavola (VdT)
These wines have the loosest set of rules and allow for a wide variety of wines made from pretty much any grape grown anywhere in Italy. The vast majority of these wines are basic in quality and are rarely exported outside of Italy, but can occasionally make a decent plonk for a holiday in Italy if you find a decent one.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)
Very much a classification based on regions, this classification aims to ensure the wines are made in the specified region, from the typical grapes of the region (with a few additions).
This classification has helped regions such as Sicily and Puglia release some seriously good value wines into the export market. It has also helped winemakers experiment outside of any stricter rules.
Indeed it was from IGT Toscana that sprang forth the Super Tuscans before the creation of Bolgheri DOC!
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
First introduced across Italy in 1968, this classification protects a large number (around 330) of historical and classical wine regions across the length and breadth of Italy. This is the classification where the likes of Prosecco DOC in Veneto rubs shoulders with Etna Rosso DOC in Sicily.
The grape varieties permitted, the maximum yields, and even ageing requirements tend to be stricter than basic IGT.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
With the expansion of the DOC system throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, it became clear that Italy needed a higher level for the highest quality wines in the country.
In 1980 they introduced the DOCG system, beginning with the famed red wine regions of Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino, and spreading to now include just under 80 DOCGs across the country.
These represent the top wine regions of Italy, with the strictest production rules. It can mean higher prices, but it should ensure the utmost quality in the bottle for the consumer.So there you have it, the 4 main wine classification systems in Italy.
You now know what they mean and what quality and value they should represent. Hopefully now there’s one less barrier to enjoying even more of the joys that Italian wine has to offer!
Wines To Try to Explore the Classifications