Italian Wine Classifications
There is a hierarchy of Italian wine Classification. Italian wine laws and classifications were introduced in Italy in the 1960s. At first this new DOC system ( Denominazione di Origine) adhered rigidly to traditional methods. Some Italian winemakers felt the new regulation stifled creativity preferred to make wine their own way. They rebelled against this strict regulation. Their experimenting resulted in excellent wines that became known Super Tuscan wines. Since they did not comply with the rules of the DOC system they were classified as table wines regardless of their quality or price. In 1992 the existing DOC system was changed and the IGT classification was added to signify wines typical of a specific region that allowed more flexibility in the process. Today these are the classifications of Italian wine.
- VdT- Vino da Tavola Simple table wine with the fewest restrictions. The label tells you it was made in Italy and that is about all. They are mostly for local consumption and if you had the house wine in a local trattoria you have likely tasted a Vino da tavola wine. The Vino da Tavola category held a certain prestige in the 1970s and1980s thanks to experimental winemakers who produced top-quality wines under the title. The situation has gradually diminished since the introduction of IGT wines.
- IGT- Indicazione Geografica Tipica (=typical region wines) These wines follow broad rules about production. The IGT classification focuses on the region of origin rather than grape varieties or wine styles. They are blended wines and they do not need to follow a specific recipe. For example an IGT Toscana guarantees that a minimum of 85% of the grapes used in the wine were grown in Tuscany. The vintage and the bottler must be indicated. Generally they are inexpensive and decent for everyday drinking. There are exceptions. The best of these wines are called “Super Tuscans”. They can be some of the best wines and most expensive wines from Italy.
- DOC- Denominazione di Orgine Controllata; follows stricter rules about production. A DOC wine will convey a regional wine making style with specific grapes, and that the quality of the wine tends to be higher than the IGT wines. However, Super Tuscans can be an exception to that rule. If you have ever had an Italian Pinot Grigio from the Friuli region or a glass of Prosecco, it was likely a DOC wine.
- DOCG- Denominazione di Orgine Controllata e Garantita; very strictly controlled production. This classification is meant to represent the best Italian wines. It is here you will find Italy’s top wines and sometimes highest prices. Most DOCG rules reduce the allowable yield of grapes to produce the wine, require longer aging, and pass an analysis and tasting by government-licensed personnel before bottling. DOCG wine bottles are sealed with a numbered governmental stamp across the cork. The stamp is your guarantee that the Barolo or Brunello or Chianti Classico was produced with strict adherence to local wine making. There are only about 60 wines that have achieved this status.
Having said all this there is no guarantee that you will like the DOCG wine that you have purchased. It is also possible to enjoy a Vino da Tavola wine. For example one of our favorite restaurants is a pizzeria in the small town of Tirrenia. Whenever we go there we ask for vino di casa Bianca which is certainly a vino da Tavola wine. They draw it straight from the barrel into a one liter pitcher and we love it. My advice is to try a variety of Italian wines and find what suits your taste buds.