Wine has long been an integral part of Italian culture and one of the country's major exports. Italy has awarded some of its top wines DOC or DOCG status, as an indication that they meet certain government-mandated standards.
Understand how an Italian wine label's terminology impacts its flavor.
Italy is famed for its expansive vineyards and rich wine culture. Today, Italy boasts an impressive portfolio of exceptional reds, zesty whites, and sparkling wines that display both traditional techniques as well as innovative approaches.
Italy boasts a dynamic climate that encourages over two thousand grape varieties to thrive, giving its wines something for everyone.
Strict regulations and guidelines have been put in place to ensure quality across the 20 regions in this country, such as DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin), DOCG (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin), IGT (Indication of Geographic Protection).
Italian winemakers take great pride in creating superior-quality wines designated DOC or DOCG, which follow stringent rules regarding grape varieties, harvesting methods and aging requirements. Yet talented Italian winemakers don't fear pushing the limits with creative Super Tuscans that may not meet these rigid specifications, yet remain highly acclaimed.
Italy's wines are produced primarily using native grape varieties; Sangiovese being one of the most frequently planted and responsible for classic wines like Chianti and Vino Noble di Montepulciano.
Prosecco is a light, fragrant sparkling wine with delicate citrus and pear aromas and an easy, fresh palate, ideal for pairing with appetizers and seafood dishes.
Nero d'Avola (pronounced Neh-roh dah-voe-lah) is one of Sicily's signature varietals and was traditionally used to fortify weaker red wines in Northern Italy and France, earning it the moniker 'le vin medecine' (medicine wine).
Some winemakers, such as those behind "Super Tuscans", push the limits of traditional Italian wines. Look for bottles marked IGT instead of DOC or DOCG to find these non-traditional, higher quality wines - this allows producers to blend international grape varieties beyond what is required under regional classification systems.
Italian winemaking is both an art and science. Each bottle is carefully hand-crafted to complement the rich flavors of Italian cuisine - from hearty pasta dishes to full-bodied red wines that stand up against grilled meat dishes.
MiPAAF manages all Italian wine laws at a high-level, while delegating protection, supervision, and enforcement to individual wine denominations through Consorzi (literally: consortiums). Consorzi are voluntary groups of winemakers who agree to comply with DOC regulations regarding grape varieties, harvest yield limits, minimum aging requirements and other considerations.
Additionally to DOC and DOCG classifications, labels may include Classico or Superiore to indicate that a wine was made in its historic center. If this applies, this means it has at least 0.5% more alcohol content than regular wines from that same region and must meet additional harvesting and aging restrictions.
The DOC (Denomination of Origin Controllee) classification system in Italy was inspired by France's AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controllee). This label applies to wines produced within designated zones and requires strict adherence to certain rules such as vineyard regulations, grape types permitted, minimum alcohol levels and aging requirements.
DOC wines must bear the name of their region of production on the label. Additional descriptors such as "Classico," indicating it hails from an historic area within that region, or "Superiore," denoting an extended aging process, may also appear.
Stepping down from DOC is IGT, which allows producers more latitude when creating any blend. Vino da Tavola table wines require only that they were produced within Italy - labels will often feature information such as producer and vintage year. A growing number of Italian wineries also use modern, eye-catching labels in order to attract younger drinkers.