Italian wine labels, just like those from France and Spain, are required by law to show an established set of basic information (producer name, appellation, vintage, alcohol content and bottle volume). Italy began developing its official wine classifications in the 1960s, modeled on the French appellation system. The DOC and DOCG categories were introduced in 1963 (although the latter remain unused until 1982), and the IGT category followed in the early 1990's.
Currently there are 329 DOC’s, 74 DOCG’s and 119 IGT’s in Italy.
The most concise way to show the differences between these classifications are shown below.
Is the highest classification for Italian wines. It denotes controlled (controllata) production methods and guaranteed (garantita) wine quality. There are strict rules governing the production of DOCG wines, most obviously the permitted grape varieties, yield limits, grape ripeness, winemaking procedures and barrel/bottle maturation. Every DOCG wine is subject to official tasting procedures. To prevent counterfeiting, the bottles have a numbered government seal across the neck.
Is the main tier of Italian wine classification, and covers almost every traditional Italian wine style. There are around 330 individual DOC titles, each with a set of laws governing its viticultural zone, permitted grape varieties and wine style. Those which show consistently high quality earn promotion to DOCG status.
Was introduced in 1992, to allow a certain level of freedom to Italy's winemakers. Prior to 1992, many wines failed to qualify for DOC or DOCG status – not because they were of low quality, but because they were made from grape varieties (or blends) not sanctioned under DOC/G laws. The IGT classification focuses on the region of origin, rather than grape varieties or wine styles.
Means 'table wine' in Italian, and represents the most basic level of Italian wine. The Vino da Tavola category held a certain prestige in the 1970s and 1980s, thanks to experimental winemakers who produced top-quality (but unorthodox) wines under the title. This situation has gradually diminished, however, since the introduction of the IGT category with its more flexible production conditions, and Vino da Tavola has steadily returned to its original status as the lowest rung on Italy's wine quality ladder.
This useful but unofficial term emerged in the 1970s, to describe a particular set of high-quality Tuscan wines which were precluded from claiming DOC or DOCG status because they broke traditional Italian winemaking norms (foreign grape varieties were used, and the wines were often matured in small, new oak barrels). Several of these wines earned global recognition and astronomical price tags - hence 'Super Tuscan'. Originally these wines had to be labeled as Vino da Tavola because they contravened the stringent, tradition-focused DOC laws. This situation ultimately led to the creation of the IGT category, with its relatively relaxed production rules.
Nebbiolo - A Snapshot
Langhe Nebbiolo: Usually a declassification of Barolo & Barbaresco wines but can be made all throughout Piemonte, usually younger vines that delivers a fresh, approachable expression of Nebbiolo. Must contain at least 85% Nebbiolo grapes
Nebbiolo d’Alba: Is made from vines situated outside the Langhe growing areas, must contain 100% Nebbiolo grapes and be aged for a minimum of 12 months. Nebbiolo d’Alba is all about balance and enjoyment. Displaying floral and delicate red fruit sensations alongside integrated tannins and fresh acidity.
Barbaresco: A lighter, more approachable style of Nebbiolo with less tannin on the mid palate. There is a different climate and soil composition than that of Barolo. Barbaresco must also be aged for a minimum of 2 years and 4 years for the Riserva.
Barolo: Has a bold mouth feel with rigid tannin and slightly higher alcohol content. Generally divided into 2 different soil types; limestone based soil in La Morra & Barolo and standstone based soil in Serralunga & Monforte d’Alba. Barolo must be aged for a minimum of 3 years and 5 years for the Riserva.
Chianti - A Snapshot
|Colli Senesi||Aged for 6 months|
|Colline Pisane||Aged for 6 months|
|Colli Aretini||Aged for 6 months|
|Montalbano||Aged for 6 months|
|Montespertoli||Aged for 9 months 9 (min.)|
|Classico||Aged for 1 year (min.)|
|Rufina||Aged for 1 year (min.)|
|Colli Fiorentini||Aged for 1 year (min.)|
|Annata||Year of Vintage|
|Azienda Agricola||Estate producing wine from its own grapes|
|Barrique||Small Barrel, usually of new French Oak|
|Brut||Dry when referring to sparkling wine|
|Cascina||Farm or Estate, usually in Northern Italy|
|Charmat||Method whereby wine is made sparkling by re-fermenting in sealed, pressure resistant vats|
|Fattoria||Farm or Estate|
|Frzzante||Lightly bubbly, petillant, but not fully sparkling|
|Liquoroso||High alcohol, fortified wine|
|Metodo Classico||Term for sparkling wine made by the classic Champagne Method with a re-fermentation in bottle|
|Passito||Partially dried grapes and the wines - usually sweet, sometimes strong - made from them|
|Podere||Small farm or Estate|
|Secco||Dry (but medium-dry when referring to sparkling wine)|
|Spumante||Sparkling wine, whether bone dry or fully sweet|
|Tenuta||Farm or Estate|
|Vendemmia||The Grape Harvest (vintage)|