So the other night, I was drinking a new selection from my Aldi wine advent calendar (as one does), when I realized that this wine was not like the others. It had a little label around the neck of the bottle labeled “DOC.” And that folks, is what sent me down the rabbit hole of the Italian wine classification system.
Basically, Italy takes its wine very seriously. And it should–after all, they are a top exporter and wine is part of their entire cultural identity. Their first classification system arrived in 1963, but government legislative changes have affected it since then. The last major change occurred in 2011, which gave us four categories (also known as appellations):
Vino Formerly known as Vino da Tavola (VdT), vino is your basic wine. It’s not going to be pricey and won’t be labeled with the region the grapes were grown or its vintage year. The only criteria that has to be met is that the wine must have been produced in Italy.
Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT) Think of this as a typical table wine. Its grapes come from a specific growing region and will be labeled to reflect that. You will see a lot of “Super Tuscans” in this category that don’t fall into the higher categories but are still well worth your time. Wait… what’s a Super Tuscan? It’s mostly a blended red that uses some international grapes. This bumped them up out of the higher categories, but most people agreed that these wines were too delicious to be labeled as Vino.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) Wines in this category are pretty much equivalent to the French Appellation System. (The French are a story for another day.) The wine must meet high quality standards and it must be produced from a specific region. There are a few other regulations as well–think bottle size, minimum aging time, and grape varietals allowed.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) These are your highest quality wines. They have to meet everything that DOC wines need, but also so much more. All of the wines in this category are tasted by a government-licensed judgement panel before they get bottled. There are also more quality controls–more aging, lower grape yields, etc. Additionally, they get a special extra seal to prove that no tampering happened after being certified as the best of the best.
Personally, I know that I’ll be reading the labels in the Italian section of my wine store much more closely now. After all, that DOC labeled wine I had in my Aldi wine advent calendar was delicious. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend my sources, City Vino and The Spruce Eats. I also had a healthy dose of help from Wikipedia, which send me into an internet wormhole.