Italian Wine Classifications

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It can sometimes be a little bit difficult to decipher the meaning behind the various labels placed on each bottle of Italian wine. With DOC, DOCG and IGT all making regular appearances, it helps to know what each of this acronyms denote and why they are an important part of any decision that you make when it comes to purchasing a bottle of wine.

With that in mind we have decided to take a brief look at each of these classifications, in addition to highlighting some of the better wines to be included under each. This is by no means exhaustive, and there are literally hundreds of other wines that could be included here. However, it should give you an idea of what to look for and hopefully help in making a satisfactory purchase.

DOC

There are currently more than 320 DOC wines in Italy, each of which has earned the label due to the production methods used and their region of origin. For a one to be given the DOC label it must meet a certain set of criteria laid out by the organisation. Here are a couple of the best:

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Made using the Montepulciano grape, which is one of the most widely planted red grape varieties in all of Italy, the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a stunning red wine that is noted for its low acidity and for the fact that it has the potential to improve with a little bit of aging. Featuring fairly soft and sweet tannings, it is a wine that truly is absolutely chock full of depth and features a complex, fruity flavour that has served to make it one of the most popular wines in the country. A huge amount of the winemakers in the Abruzzo area produce some variant of the wine, though most are centred around the Chieti province.

Prosecco

Perhaps the most famous sparkling white wine that is not named champagne, Prosecco is an absolutely gorgeous drink that can be consumed no matter what the circumstances. While it is considered something of a celebratory wine when sold internationally, most Italians consume it as a light refreshment or as a drink that goes well with snacks and less rich foods. Regardless, it is currently one of the most popular wines in the entire world and it maintains this popularity simply due to the fact that it can be considered one of, if not the best, of the many types of Italian white wine.

DOCG

While the wines that carry the DOC label are all extremely special in their own right, if a wine manages to attain the DOCG level of approval you can practically guarantee that is amongst the best that you will ever have the privilege of tasting. With a set of guidelines that are even more stringent than those used for DOC wines, each is individually tested by some of the foremost wine experts in Italy to guarantee the highest quality. Here are two of the best:

Chianti

Chianti is one of the most famous Italian wines in the world and has long been the benchmark for quality Italian red wines, though the other wine mentioned below may have something to say about that. Regardless, it is a fast favourite at dinner parties and never fails to offer an extra touch of class thanks to its rich textures and intriguing taste. It goes excellently with richer foods and is even delectable enough to find favour with the somewhat specialised tastes of movie villain Hannibal Lector.

Barolo

Barolo is perhaps amongst the most prestigious Italian red wines ever made, which was exemplified by the uproar from traditionalists when modern winemakers began to look at ways to improve its production processes. For many, they simply did not need improving and there is still something of a schism between those who prefer the older ways and those who have adopted the new. Regardless, you are guaranteed a quality experience no matter which one you choose. For a brief reference, the Barolos produced using the older methods are perhaps less in tune with those using the new, as the newer methods produce a fruitier wine that has found some level of popularity internationally.

IGT

Created almost primarily to recognise the exceptionally high quality of the ‘Super Tuscans’ the IGT classification is something of a compromise by the Italian authorities. It allows them to demonstrate the immense quality of the wines that carry the label, without having to alter the DOC classifications to allow them entry into that particular Parthenon of great wines. Each wine with this label can be marked out as an innovator and one that makes use of less traditional winemaking techniques, marking them out as wines that simply must be experimented with. The label has since moved on from classifying Super Tuscans only and now denoted a number of quality wines. Here are two more of the best:

Tignanello

Considered an IGT Super Tuscan since the late 1970s, this is the wine that sparked a revolution in the way that Chianti is made and is still amongst the most popular in the world today. While it divides traditionalists and modern winemakers, it is an exceptional wine whose quality and popularity helped to usher in perhaps the most exciting period of change in Italian winemaking for many years. It is also exceptionally popular internationally, thought its quality has been more than recognised on a domestic level too.

Alto Tirino

It would perhaps be fair to say that this rather excellent red wine is nowhere near as well-known as the others that have appeared on this list, but that doesn’t mean that it should be discounted entirely. After all, much of the joy from Italian wines comes in discovering those that you may never have even heard of before. Alto Torino is a rather exquisite red wine that offers something a little bit different to wines carrying the DOC classifications. It is most definitely worth exploring, along with a number of other wines from the Abruzzo region.

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