Clemens: Italian classification system

Shopping for wine can be daunting. How do you know if wine is good without buying a bottle and tasting it? Wine reviews can help, but not all wines have current scores and you may find the descriptors to be gibberish.

Several wine-producing countries have labeling systems to give consumers an overview of quality. Italy introduced its Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) in 1963 to provide guidance.

The Italian system now has four categories. The first two indicate the geographical location where the wine was produced rather than the quality. Vino da Tavola (VdT) – “Table wine” – indicates that the fruit does not come from a specific region. Geografica Tipica (IGT) — “Indication of Geographical Typicality” — identifies wines produced in a specific region.

Two designations are intended to signify quality. Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” – is the second highest quality standard. It can be attributed to almost any style of Italian wine, but winemakers must follow strict guidelines ranging from zoning laws to allowed varieties. There are over 300 separate DOCs in Italy, each with its own regulations.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) is the highest Italian wine standard. It translates to “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée et Garantie”. Italy adopted DOCG in 1980 after complaints that too many DOC wines were of variable quality. To achieve DOCG status, the wine must undergo taste testing conducted by a government-sponsored and approved committee. There are only 74 DOCGs.

DOC and DOCG exist in an additional classification: Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP) – “Protected Designation of Origin”. These require specific production methods and quality standards. DOP doesn’t just apply to wine but to many Italian dishes – cheese, olive oil, prosciutto, tomatoes, etc.

Finally, while DOCG and DOC indicate quality, there are DOC wines made with stricter rules than DOCG wines. Thus, some DOC wines may be of higher quality than some DOCG wines. Wine is not simple. The Italian classifications help, but you still have to buy the wine and taste it.

Tasting Notes

• Parmoleto Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG 2016: rich and tangy expression of Sangiovese. Lots of tasty and assertive red fruits. $19-25

• Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco, Langhe DOC 2018: Vibrant and relaxed at the same time. Superb serious wine at this price. $22-25

• Banfi Rosa Regale Asti Sparkling White Wine DOCG 2020: sweet as honey with a bit of freshness and a moscato affability. Excellent for summer fun. $23

Links to reviews

Last round

It’s so hot, my pencils are now watercolors. Wine time.

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