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Italian Wine Classifications

It is probably a little known fact to most restaurant goers that there are approximately 350 official Italian wine varieties, produced by 20 different wine regions and it’s estimated there are over a thousand different grape varieties. They three largest wine producing regions are Veneto, Tuscany and Piedmont.

Veneto is the focus of food and wine at Al Boccon di’ Vino and I will cover this area in more depth in future blogs. But before I do it’s important to understand the wine classification system of Italy called Denominazione di origine controllata which when translated means controlled designation of origin.

First established in 1963, this is intended as a mark of guaranteed quality assurance and doesn’t just apply to wines but other Italian food products such as cheeses. The qualification rules were updated in 1992 to fall in line with EU legislation when determining a product’s country of origin.

The rules and regulations applied dictate the grape type that must be used, the age of the wine and its alcohol content. Furthermore, a DOCG labelled wine means it has been analysed and tasted by government–licensed personnel before being bottled. The wine is then sealed with a numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork to ensure it isn’t changed later.

There are three classification types –

  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). The most tringent of all and means that the wine was produced by following the followed the strictest of the Italian regulations as well as being approved by a committee that confrims the geographic authenticity and quality.

  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). These are much more readily available than DOCG wines. Whilst the quality and authenticity are still very stringent, the area of production may be bigger and the rules about types of grapes used allow for more varieties.

  • Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT). This classification to encompass those growers who who are unable to meet all the DOC or DOCG rules but still produce a good quality wine

The Italian government further regulates the use of Classico, which is reserved for traditionally produced regional wines; Chianti Classico, where the definition of the traditional region has been decree defined since 1932 and finally Riserva, used when a wine has been aged at least two years more than it might normally be.

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