(Translation: To be honest, pretty excited about these very important Italian abbreviations)
If you can interpret this headline, you must be a millennial. We live and breathe for abbreviations, amirite? Luckily, there are four GR8 (does anyone actually use this abbrev? lol) abbreviated categories we can refer to when it comes to Italian wines. Can’t even.
The French are pretty much the greatest of all time (GOAT) when it comes to the wine world. Not only did most grapes originate in France, but in1935, they also created the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system. Yeah, let’s abbreviate that one to AOC. This system became a model for other European (and non-European) countries also looking for a way to categorize their wines.
Fast forward to 1963 when Italy experienced some serious FOMO, leading them to debut their own system for categorizing wines. They called this system the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC in millennial terms). Srsly, Italy? Sounds oddly familiar. Italy established strict rules and standards (based on similar rules used by the French) on how and where their wines can be made.
The best way to understand the categories of Italian wines is to visualize a pyramid. Now let’s start at the bottom (associated with lower quality wines) and work our way up to the peak. We have to save the best wines for last, obvi.
VdT (Vino da Tavola)
The DOC system is all about categorizing where a wine can be produced. For the wines that don’t come from a specific place or follow the strict rules, we thankfully have the Vino da Tavola (table wine) category. These wines will have “Italy” listed as their designation. In other words, the grapes for these wines can come from anywhere in all of Italy! Any varietal can be used. Sometimes, the label may only list the color of the wine (red, white, rosé). Just because this regulation is more relaxed does not mean these wines are necessarily poor quality. Winemakers keep it 100, having more freedom when it comes to crafting their prized vino and staying true to themselves.
IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica)
These wines move a step up in quality from the table wines but aren’t yet at the quality level of DOC wines. They’re just in between. It’s like wine purgatory. These wines do, however, have a specific geographical area they call home. Most wines are listed by the grape variety. There are just over 100 IGTs in Italy.
DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)
These wines will have you swiping right. DOC wines refer to not only a specific place, but also a specific way the wine is produced. There are only certain grapes that may be used, set alcohol levels, aging requirements, etc. Winemakers even have to send samples to a tasting committee for approval (talk about a dream job). There are 330+ DOC zones. Vernaccia di San Gimignano of Tuscany was awarded the first DOC status in 1966.
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)
These wines are on fleek (sorry, not sorry) bougie. This category is reserved for the best of the best when it comes to Italian wines. There are 73 DOCG areas, with Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany being the first. Strict regulations control this designation, including rules about grape varieties, maximum yields per vineyard and specific production areas. Additional guidelines exist in regards to a minimum and maximum alcohol level, grape growing and winemaking practices, aging requirements, taste testing, etc.
IMO, you can find dope Italian wines to fit your ~aesthetic~ in any category. Stay woke ya’ll. Too much? Idgaf.
Source: Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy, The Wine Bible (2nd edition), GuildSomm (Northern Italy)
Bastianich, J., & Lynch, D. (2005). Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy. New York: Clarkson Potter.
MacNeil, K. (2015). Wine Bible (2nd ed.). New York: Workman.,