Examine the label of a bottle of Italian wine and what do you see?
There’s obviously a ton of information to get through. The wine’s name, along with the company that made it, is front and centre. Spin the bottle around and you’ll find information about the producer and some talk about what went into making the wine. There will probably be a prominent logo displayed somewhere on the label as well.
Look a little closer and you’ll also find that practically all bottles of Italian wine feature some letters.
What do they mean?
These letters tell you an awful lot about the wine, its origin, and its conformance to modern Italian wine-making standards and rules. What’s more, each means something a little different, with these letters often serving as one of the choosing points for a bottle of Italian wine.
So, we come back to the question:
What do they mean?
In this article, we explore the differences between DOC, DOCG, and IGT so you know exactly what you’re getting when you see these letters on your bottle of wine.
What is DOC?
We start with DOC because these are the letters you’re most likely to find on a bottle of Italian wine.
DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata.
Think of DOC as the regulatory body for many types of Italian wine. A wine achieves DOC status when it’s made while following a strict set of rules and regulations set forth by the DOC governing body.
So, how does that work?
The DOC focuses on maintaining the regional and cultural heritage of many wines. As such, the rules are in place to ensure that wines are made in a very specific way. Such rules typically include regulations about the specific location that a bottle of Italian wine can come from. For example, Prosecco is limited to production in one area of Italy. Any sparkling wines produced in other regions are not allowed to be called Prosecco and carry the DOC label because there is only one region that is allowed to produce this specific type of wine.
Similarly, the DOC will also have rules in place that govern the specific volume of grapes that can go in a wine. For example, a wine may be made primarily with the Chardonnay grape, with the DOC stating that the wine must be a minimum of 80% Chardonnay. There will then be other rules stating which other grapes can be part of the blend and in which percentages they may be added.
The goal here is to create consistency with the wine.
If we stick with our Prosecco example, it won’t do to have hundreds of producers from all over Italy putting their own stamp on Prosecco. If you think of Prosecco as a brand name in and of itself, having a ton of different ways of making it, all of varying quality, will confuse consumers because they’ll never know what they’re getting from the brand.
In that sense, we can view the DOC as brand overseers for Italian wine who ensure that consistency is attained for many of the country’s major wines.
Currently, there are over 330 DOCs in Italy, with more added each year. If you see DOC on a label, you can feel assured that the wine has been made in strict adherence to the codes put in place for that particular type of wine.
What is DOCG?
DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.
Many point to DOCG as being the next level up from DOC. In other words, wines carrying this label are amongst the best that Italy has to offer.
There is a grain of truth to this, though it’s not the full story.
Much as we see with DOC, DOCG status is achieved when a producer meets a very strict set of standards for a particular type of wine. However, the key difference here is that DOCG wines are also tested before they’re released to the public. A government-appointed panel of experts will examine the wine, ensuring it has followed all of the rules and is of a high enough quality to be released to the public with the DOCG label.
However, this does not necessarily mean that a DOCG wine will always be better than a DOC one. In both cases, we see winemakers following strict rules. What’s more, personal taste plays its role as you may simply prefer a particular DOC to a DOCG.
DOCG is also more limited in its scope than DOC. There are 77 DOCGs across Italy, mostly covering the country’s most prestigious wines.
What is IGT?
IGT is the label that tells you the producers have muddied the waters a little bit.
It stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica and it is basically used to indicate that a wine is of high quality but it does not adhere to the rules put in place for a DOC or DOCG. The Super Tuscans introduced in the 1970s and 1980s are a great example of this. These wines were not made in the way required to achieve the Chianti DOC label. However, they’re still of exceptional quality, so much so that Italy’s winemaking bodies had to accept them despite the fact that they didn’t follow the rules.
Today, IGT is the label granted to an Italian wine that is a little more experimental than the wines that follow the strict rules. You should not take the presence of an IGT label to mean that the wine is of low quality. In fact, many Italian producers go the IGT route because they want to create wines that are more palatable to international consumers.
Instead, think of these wines as the little rulebreakers of the Italian wine industry.
They’re different from the norm and allow creative winemakers to stretch out and try new concepts.
There are currently 120 IGTs in Italy, each of which varies in quality and specific techniques used.
And of course, you can find many of these IGT wines, alongside hundreds of DOC and DOCG wines, in the Xtrawine store.
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