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Italian Wines classification

The Italian classification system is said to be very similar to the French AOC system, but it has its Italian touch. Wine in Italy is part of every day's life. Regulating something as ancient as wine production in Italy has proven to be very difficult and needing a long time to be accepted. Yet, despite "regulatory problems" Italian wines have acquired an ever-increasing reputation for excellence. Italy's creative wine makers may find it difficult to live with regulations meant to "cement" certain ways but they have no problem producing excellent wines to the acclaim of the community of wine lovers worldwide. After all they have produced wines for over 2.000 years and their country provides them with perfect soils and ideal climatic conditions. The rest is up to them and they know what to do.

Four classification categories exist in Italy:

DOCG It. "Denominazone di Origine Controllata e Garantita"

(Designated as being of controlled and guaranteed Origin) is Italy's highest classification. Contrary to the DOC regulation which was not well received when it was introduced in 1963 the DOCG regulation, introduced at the same time, was an immediate success. The reason was that the DOCG classification was limited to Italy's most famous wines such as Barolo, Chianti, Brunello di Montalchino and very few others, all of them well known and prestigious wines. As late as 1992, when the regulation was revised, only 11 wines had been granted DOCG status. Limiting the status to these highly reputed wines established the reputation of the DOCG classification and guaranteed wine lovers that the wines thus classified were of excellent quality The number of DOCG classifications has increased to over 30 since. The DOCG status is granted to qualified areas but producers must qualify for the status individually. They must have been granted DOC status for at least 5 years prior to applying for DOCG status, must pass a gustatory test and must accept a lower yield for their wines among other conditions. The aim is to ensure that only the best areas are given DOCG status and only the better estates are granted the DOCG status.

DOC It. "Denominazione di Origin Controllata"

(Designated as being of controlled Origin) is Italy's 2nd highest classification. Although started in 1930 when some well known areas were regulated it was not until 1963 that the system was up graded to the present DOC system. It created over 240 well defined production areas (which has been increased to over 300 areas since), it defines which grape varieties are permitted in each area, the minimum degree of alcohol, it establishes the permitted yields and many other viti- and vinicultural requirements. In the end, however, the DOC system failed to bring about a change in the quality of Italian wines. The public did not see why they should pay more for a DOC wine the quality of which had little changed (if at all). Vintners on the other hand saw no reason to adhere to a system which was overly strict in many ways while it was often vague in others. And, it was not strictly enforced (as it is in France). Ambitious vintners turned their back on it and instead opted to produce highly acclaimed Vino da Tavola (Table wines) which they could sell at very high prices. "Supertuscany" has become a household word as a result of it. The 1963 regulation was improved in 1992 when a new law was introduced. One of its features was to subdivide the DOC areas into smaller ones and even permit the use of "single site" designation. Here the principal "the smaller the site the more individualistic the wine and the stricter the regulation" applies.

IGT It. Indications Geografica Tipica

(Typical Geographic Indication) is Italy's third highest ranking. The regulation was introduced in 1992 and is the counterpart to the the VDP-IGT (Country Wines) regulation in France. The regulation stipulates the area where the wines must be made, the grapes permitted, the max. Yield in that area, the min. alcoholic degree and various other specifications. "Creative Wine makers" who previously had to label their highly acclaimed wines as "Table wines" (since they did not follow DOCG and DOC regulations) have now returned to the fold and produce their outstanding and expensive wines under the IGT denomination. 

VDT It. Vino da Tavola It.

(Table wine) is the lowest classification. It is also Italy's least restricted regulation and thus permits creative wine makers the freedom to (almost) do what they like. While the majority of these wines are not particular interesting one can nevertheless find among them some fine and interesting wines. 

Other designations, sometimes stated on Italian wine labels have been regulated as follows:
Classico: The designation applies only to wines from the originally defined DOC and DOCG areas. .
Riserva: Riserva wines must have been aged for at least 2 more years than is regulated in the area.
Superiore: Superiore wines must have a degree of alcohol which is at least 1% higher than the standard as regulated for the area.
Novello : Novello (new) wines are the Italian counterpart of Primeur/Nouveau wines. At least 30% must have been made by carbonic maceration. Sales is permitted to start from November 6th each year.


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231-0862 Yokohama,Naka-Ku,
Yamate-cho 155-7, Japan

Tel : 045-232-4499
Fax : 045-623-7906