Italian Wine Classification
and Appellation System

Every wine producing country has laws in place to indicate wine quality, from the bulk wines that are produced for the local market to their most expensive exports. The Italian wine classification system has often caused confusion in the past, because some of the country's best wines have not fitted neatly into its appellation scheme. But as the system has evolved to include such wines, it has become easier to understand Italian wine labels, and consequently identify what the wine in the bottle is like.

Italian wine appellation seals

Essentially, there are four classifications. At the top there are the two Italian categories that fall into the EU "Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Area" (QWPSR) standard. These wines are labeled DOC and DOCG.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)

DOC was introduced in 1963 with the aim of encouraging wine producers to focus on quality and to protect the international reputation of Italian wine by ensuring that wine exported met the quality standard required. DOC wines must be produced according to strict guidelines, ensuring that the wine is made from permitted grape varieties and meets the legal requirements to be designated as a wine from the region it represents.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

The DOCG category is reserved for the highest quality wines from Italy. In addition to the conditions required for DOC, the wines must be "guaranteed" by passing a blind tasting test, and since 1992 there have been additional limitations on permitted yields and natural alcohol levels, to ensure that the wines that meet the criteria for this prestigious category are undoubtedly the best that Italy has to offer.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)

A third category, the IGT classification, was introduced in 1992, in order to acknowledge the wines that did not fit into the DOC category but were of superior quality to Italy’s table wines. In particular, the new breed of "Super Tuscan" wines, that were made from non-Italian grapes, and therefore could not be considered for DOC according to Tuscany’s wine legislation, required recognition. This has also provided an opportunity for winemakers to experiment with grape varieties that are perhaps not native to their region, and some truly interesting wines have emerged under the IGT classification.

Vino da Tavola

Finally, Vino da Tavola indicates table wine, the most basic wine available. This is genuinely mass-produced wine that is intended for local consumption and is generally not suitable for ageing. There are no specifications as to what grapes may be used, the only stipulation being that wine labelled Vino da Tavola must have been produced in Italy. A substantial quantity of bulk wine made in Italy is shipped in large vats for bottling in other countries. While this is something that is often regarded with disdain by wine industry professionals, in fact it generates a great deal of revenue and quality has vastly improved.

Each Italian region has many appellations within, which in turn are ranked according to the classification. The appellation can be an indication of a wine from a very specific area, as in "Chianti Classico", or it can name just the region, as in "Sicily IGT". Within the classification system there is movement – wines that hold IGT status can be recognised as quality wines and promoted to DOC. While this might mean that producers will have to be vigilant to ensure their wine adheres to the relevant legislation, it will also improve the profile of the wine in the global market and ensure it is accessible to Italian wine enthusiasts worldwide.

Classification, Labels and Flavours


Aside from being the world's first or second wine producer together with France, italian wine is the first exporting wine market all around, especially in the U.S. Due to this fact, it's very important to know the exact italian appellation system
and what it means. Basically, you can expect to gather some important information reading the label on every bottle since it matches legal and technical requirements.




Italian Wine Appellation System

Italy's classification system has four classes of wine: two falls under the EU category Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) and the other two within the category of 'table wine'.
Superior quality wines
This is more a technical rather than legal specification: the vineyard from which the wine is bottled is written on the label together with the area of provenance. This kind of information is used sometimes for high-rank italian wines, but it isn't mandatory in labels for DOC or DOCG bottles.
The right atmosphere
Avoid airstream and other flavours: wine shouldn't be influenced by cheese scent, cold cut or cigarette odour.
The temperature
Temperature of about 50-55 degrees is optimal for storing a collection of diverse white, red, sparkling and dessert wines. This temperature is closest to naturally maintained in the caves where the best wine store.

Italian Wine Labels

Italian legislation regulates the use of the label on the back of the wine bottles (while the front label is left to the producer's wish).

Popular wines across Italy

Italy has 1,752,036.46 acres under vine, according to Italy's statistical Agency ISTAT. The average production is over 5 billion litres annually, and counting. But which are the most popular wines for the italian people? Here you have a simplified list by region, introducing some recurring names of the main grape varieties scattered across Italy.

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