Italian wine classifications: main types and differences

Italian wines are  renowned worldwide for their quality, diversity, and rich history: in this article, we explore the complex scenario of Italian wine classifications.

Our aim is to offer readers a comprehensive overview of the different categories that define Italy’s esteemed winemaking tradition. From the prestigious DOCG wines to the more flexible IGT and IGP designations, each classification reflects the geographical origin of the wine and its adherence to specific production standards.

We will also present Vinicola Vedovato Mario offer of Italian wines to be exported worldwide, fully respecting the official prescriptions of each wine productive disciplinary.

 

Italian wine classifications: an overview

Italian wine classifications serve as a roadmap, guiding both producers and consumers through the country’s diverse viticultural regions and grape varieties. At the heart of these classifications lie severe regulations designed to protect the integrity of Italian wine production and to preserve the distinctiveness of each wine’s terroir.

One of the primary criteria used to classify Italian wines is the concept of “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” (DOC), or Controlled Designation of Origin.

  • Under this classification, wines must adhere to strict production regulations, including grape varieties allowed, vineyard practices, yields per hectare, and aging requirements.
  • The DOC designation not only guarantees the geographical authenticity of the wine but also ensures a certain level of quality and typicity.

Building upon the DOC framework, Italy’s highest wine classification is the “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita” (DOCG), or Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin.

  • DOCG wines represent Italian winemaking excellence, subject to even more rigorous production standards and quality controls compared to DOC wines.
  • Generally speaking, DOCG wines bear a seal of guaranteed quality and authenticity. This is linked to both their geographical origin and adherence to strict traditional productive methods.

In addition to DOC and DOCG wines, Italy also produces wines classified under the broader categories of “Indicazione Geografica Tipica” (IGT) and “Indicazione Geografica Protetta” (IGP).

  • IGT and IGP wines offer winemakers greater flexibility in terms of grape varieties, winemaking techniques, and stylistic expression.
  • While they may not adhere to the strictest production guidelines, IGT and IGP wines fully showcase the diversity of Italy’s winemaking landscape.

We have already briefly mentioned these differences in the article about Italian varietal wines, to provide a comprehensive overview of Italian wine classifications. In the following sections, we are going to explore each of them more in details.

 

1. DOC Italian wines

Italy’s “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” (DOC) wines, as we mentioned, adhere to severe production regulations and are linked to precise terroirs across Italy’s diverse viticultural regions. Here are some key features of DOC Italian wines:

  • Geographical authenticity. DOC wines must originate from areas that have already obtained IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) certification for at least five years. These designated zones are selected based on strict criteria: they have to be claimed by at least 35% of local growers and must represent at least 35% of the area’s total wine production.
  • Grape variety restrictions. Each DOC designation specifies the permitted grape varieties, preserving the authentic flavors and identities of the wines. Additionally, DOC wines may feature subcategories such as “Classico,” “Superiore,” and “Riserva,” each denoting specific quality distinctions:
    • Classico. It indicates wines produced in the historical heartland of the appellation, showcasing the purest expression of the region’s terroir and traditions.
    • Superiore. It identifies wines that meet higher quality standards, often through stricter production requirements such as lower yields or longer aging periods. These wines offer enhanced complexity and depth of flavor.
    • Riserva. It designates wines of exceptional quality and aging potential, which undergo extended maturation periods, resulting in greater concentration, structure, and elegance.
  • Production standards. DOC regulations consider various aspects of winemaking, including vineyard practices, yields per hectare, harvesting methods, fermentation techniques, and aging requirements. These standards aim to maintain consistent quality and typicity across vintages.
  • Quality assurance. DOC wines undergo severe controls and tasting evaluations by regulatory bodies to ensure that they meet specified standards of quality, flavor, and aroma.

Further requirements have to be respected in labelling, both for DOC and DOCG wines. The label has to indicate the:

  1. Exact name of the Denomination of Origin, as specified in the relevant production regulations, with the related DOC or DOCG mentions.
  2. Vintage. Starting from the 2010 harvest, indication of the vintage is mandatory for all DOCG and DOC wines, excluding sparkling, semi-sparkling, and liqueur wines.
  3. Indication of bottler. The business name, city and state of the bottler must always be indicated. In the case of sparkling wines, the name of the producer or seller may be indicated instead of the bottler. The term “produced in” (or equivalent terms such as “wine from,” “product of,” etc.) followed by the name of the State indicates the territory where the grapes were harvested and vinified.
  4. Lot indication. Numeration indicating a set of bottles belonging to the same batch, produced under practically identical circumstances. It is normally preceded by the letter “L”.

Some notable examples of DOC Italian wines include Soave and Valpolicella from Veneto, Chianti from Tuscany, Barolo from Piedmont.

 

Italian wine classifications DOC DOCG IGT IGP

2. DOCG Italian wines

In Italian wine classifications, theDenominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita” (DOCG) wines represent  winemaking excellence. These wines of superior quality are produced thanks to strict adherence to traditional methods. They are built upon the foundations of DOC regulations, but further elevate its standards. Here are some key features of DOCG Italian wines:

  • Enhanced quality features. After a minimum of 10 years in the DOC classification, wines may be eligible for promotion to DOCG status, provided they pass rigorous chemical, physical, and sensory analyses during production and bottling.
  • Quality analysis. DOCG wines, consequently, adhere to the same regulations as DOC wines but are subject to even more rigorous production standards and quality controls. Each batch of DOCG wine undergoes a comprehensive qualitative analysis at the time of bottling, guaranteeing that the wine meets the required criteria of quality and authenticity.
  • Quality designations. Similar to DOC wines, DOCG wines may feature additional quality designations such as “Classico,” “Superiore,” and “Riserva,” denoting specific quality distinctions based on production standards, aging requirements or geographical significance.

Notable examples of DOCG Italian wines include Barolo DOCG from Piedmont, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG from Veneto, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG from Tuscany.

Vinicola Vedovato Mario offers to its customers premium DOP and DOCG Italian wines, fully highlighting their distinct terroir-driven characteristics. Our global export reach ensures accessibility, complemented by a wide range of options in wines selection, tailored to our clients’ preferences and demands.

 

4. IGT and IGP Italian wines

Italian wines grouped under the “Indicazione Geografica Tipica” IGT and the “Indicazione Geografica Protetta” IGP classifications offer winemakers greater flexibility in terms of grape varieties, winemaking techniques, and stylistic expression.

Here you are some features that the two groups share:

  • Geographical indication. IGT and IGP wines bear the indication of a geographical area broader than the area defined for DOC and DOCG wines.
  • Grape varieties freedom. DOC and DOCG regulations impose strict limitations on grape varieties. On the contrary, IGT and IGP wines allow winemakers to experiment with a wider range of grapes, fostering innovation and somewhat unexpected results.
  • Production flexibility. IGT and IGP regulations are less restrictive, providing winemakers with greater freedom in vineyard practices, yields, and winemaking techniques. This flexibility enables producers to showcase their winemaking philosophy.

 

Italian wine classifications explained in detalis: DOC DOCG IGT IGP

 

IGT wines are similar to IGP wines, due to the geographical indication. However, they are not exactly the same, since in the production of IGP wines, at least 85% of the grapes used must come from the area of origin. The remaining 15% is allowed to be from other grape varieties, either from the same region or neighboring territories. IGT wines, therefore, have fewer restrictions for bottling, labeling, and production of grapes, encompassing a broader area.

While IGT and IGP wines may not adhere to the same strict regulations as DOC and DOCG wines, they still undergo quality controls to ensure that they meet precise standards of quality and typicity.

Notable examples of IGT and IGP Italian wines bear the name of the specific region they come from: Venezia Giulia IGT, Marca Trevigiana IGT,  Val di Magra IGT, Avola IGP, Marche IGP and more.

These indications can be completed by:

  • the mention of the type of wine, such as white, red, or rosé;
  • their variations, including, for example, sparkling, sweet, novello and more.

Thanks to its comprehensive experience, Vinicola Vedovato Mario can provide professional assistance to foreign customers wishing to import quality wine from the main Italian wines classification in their respective countries.

We export wine from Italy in the United StatesUnited Kingdom, CanadaFrance, Germany, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe and more. In every shipment, we fully respect the product requirements of each wine classification, including DOC, DOCG and IGP.

Are you interested in our wine import / export services? Contact us for more information.

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