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Italian Appellation System (Italian Wine Classification)

Italy is home of some of the oldest and most exquisite wine producing regions in the world. Italian wine is known and is exported around the world making it one of the highest ranked countries to consume wine.

Italian wine is like no other! Made with not only the best grapes in the world, but also involving an intense classification system which was launched by the Italian Government in 1963. The legislation has been modified and many additions have been made which has led to establishment of four basic categories.

VDT (Vino da Tavola)

This category in the European Union denotes the lowest quality of wine from Italy. Literally meaning ‘table wine’, the VDT is an inexpensive blend of wine made with grapes from multiple regions. The bottle is not labelled with its region or its vintage. The wine is generally mass produced and sold for local consumption. This non-ageing wine may be classified as a higher quality of wine in other countries who do not follow or regard the Italian wine classification system.

IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) –Typical Geographic Indication

This classification was introduced in 1992 to allow a certain level of freedom to Italy’s winemakers. The IGT classification focuses on the region of origin, rather than the grape varieties or wine styles. The label must declare these key attribute (region) and are required to apply for the status of IGT. They are at a higher standard than the VDT but not as regarded as the DOC and DOCG wines. This type of classification allows winemakers to experiment with various grapes, creating some interesting tasting wines.

DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata-  Appellation of Controlled Origin

DOC was introduced in 1963 to encourage wine producers to focus on making quality wines to protect the reputation of international trade of Italian wines. This classification of wine is distinct on the label and it indicates the specific region. The wine has been aged and bottled in agreement with existing regulations and under strict control by the Italian Authorities.

To qualify for this DOC status the wine must be made with permitted grapes approved by authorities and the wine produced must also have a minimum natural alcoholic content. There are set periods of minimum ageing and the wine cannot be sold to the consumer until it has reached an acceptable level of maturation.

The process is assessed throughout the various stages by authorities, with samples taken to be analysed during various phases of production. Producers have learnt that is pays to make good wine and establish a standard of quality; penalties are taken seriously with heavy fines or prison terms depending on the quality of wine involved. 

DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, Appellation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin)

The quality of wines in these classifications is ‘guaranteed’ by the Italian Government by passing a ‘blind’ tasting test. The guidelines are even more stringent and can only be sold in bottles which do not exceed a certain size. Each bottle must show a seal of guarantee and are numbered showing the name of appellation which can only be issued by the government.
The first DOCG wine to be sold in Italy was Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Tuscany.

Other Interesting Facts:

Government seals have different colours according to the type if the DOCG wine: 

–          Light pink is for sparkling wines

–          Light green is used for white wines

–          Magenta identifies red wines

The appellation system also shows when relevant, the name of a sub zone, such as a specific vineyard, farm or estate, or the name of the place of origin. This has been adapted from the ‘cru’ concept which is used in France.

The Italian Classification system  also holds various ‘special’ acronyms which have been introduced by the European Union Laws to designate quality wines and should be written on the bottle of every DOC and DOCG wines.  These are;

VSQPRD – (Vino Spumante di Qualità Prodotto in Regione Determinata, Quality Sparkling Wine Produced in Determined Region) is a quality sparkling wine produced in a specialised determined area.

VLQPRD – (Vino Liquoroso di Qualità Prodotto in Regione Determinata, Quality Fortified Wine Produced in Determined Region) is a quality fortified wine produced in a specialised determined area.

VFQPRD – (Vino Frizzante di Qualità Prodotto in Regione Determinata, Quality Slightly Sparkling Wine Produced in Determined Region) is a quality slightly sparkling wine produced in a specialised determined area.

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