If you look on any Italian label you will find the winery name, sometimes the vineyard name, the year, and an abbreviation (DOC, DOCG) or a phrase (Vino Da Tavola) which can be confusing and of-putting. What does this mean? Why is it there? What is the difference? Do not fret! The classifications for Italian wine are easy to understand with simply a base education which is outlined below.

There are four major categories of Italian wines:

– Vino Da Tavola
– Vino a Indicazione Geografica (IGT)
– Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
– Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

Vino Da Tavola (VdT) was once only required by law to not kill the drinker. There were few rules or regulations and most were thin, weak wines and sold in jugs which eventually became candlesticks. But now – the world has changed. There are some winemakers dedicated to changing the image of the VdT and the consistency, and these wines can be excellent and great bargains.

Vino a Indicazione Geografica (IGT) is a classification for a wine produced in a specific area. ‘Toscana’ is a common IGT where Tuscans blend Sangiovese with varying amounts of other grapes like Cabernet or Merlot. These can be amazing wines with good acidity. The ‘Super Tuscan?’ blends are IGT status and can be some of the best wines coming out of Italy, as well as some of the most unique.

Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) is the Italian version of the French AOC. DOC wines are produced in specific well-defined and tenured regions. There are very specific rules designed to preserve the traditions of Italian winemaking – each unique to the individual regions. Thus, the rules for making Barolo differ markedly from those for making Chianti Rufina. Region of production, grape varietals, minimum alcohol content, and aging length are all DOC regulations. In addition, to be eligible for a DOC designation, wines must pass a taste test and a chemical analysis.

Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) is the mother of all classifications. Only the strong survive this set of rules and regulations. To meet the standard, average yields are generally lower, and all DOCG wines must pass an evaluation of a tasting committee before they can be bottled. The DOCG testing has resulted in an overall improvement in quality for Italian wines. For many historic wines of extremely high quality, which meet all the requirements, the DOCG system functions splendidly and provides the wine drinker and consumer with an accounting of every bottle produced.