Italian wine labels can be a bit overwhelming for those who are not familiar with the terminology and classifications used. Understanding these labels is essential for choosing the right wine for your palate and occasion. In this article, we will break down the key terms and classifications found on Italian wine labels, making it easier for you to navigate the vast world of Italian wines.
The Wine Classification System
Italian wines are classified into four main categories: VdT (Vino da Tavola), IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).
VdT (Vino da Tavola)
VdT is the lowest classification on the Italian wine label hierarchy. It translates to “table wine” and represents wines that are made with minimal regulations. These wines are often simple and meant for everyday drinking. They may indicate the region where they were produced but have no specific quality or production requirements.
IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica)
The IGT classification is one step above VdT and represents wines that are made in a specific geographical area and follow certain regulations. These wines are often a blend of different grape varieties and may have specific aging requirements. IGT wines offer more quality and character than VdT wines but are still considered everyday drinking wines.
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DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)
DOC is a higher classification that represents wines made in a specific region, following strict production regulations. These regulations include the types of grapes allowed, the maximum yield per hectare, the minimum alcohol content, and specific aging requirements. DOC wines are considered to be of good quality and represent the typical style of the region.
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DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)
DOCG is the highest classification level in Italy and represents wines of the highest quality. These wines must meet all the requirements of DOC wines, but they undergo additional testing and tasting to ensure their superior quality. The labels of DOCG wines bear a numbered government seal that guarantees their authenticity. DOCG wines are often considered to be the best expressions of their respective regions.
Terms on Italian Wine Labels
Italian wine labels can also feature various terms that provide further information about the wine. Here are some common terms you might come across:
The term “Riserva” indicates that the wine has been aged for a longer period than the regular version of the same wine. This additional aging enhances the wine’s complexity and often results in a more refined and elegant flavor profile.
“Classico” refers to wines that are produced in the original historical vineyard area of a particular region. These vineyards are usually considered to be the best and most representative of the region, producing wines of superior quality.
“Superiore” indicates that the wine has a higher alcohol content compared to the regular version of the same wine. This can result in a fuller-bodied wine with greater complexity and intensity of flavors.
“Spumante” refers to sparkling wines. These wines undergo a secondary fermentation process that produces carbonation, creating the characteristic bubbles in the wine.
“Frizzante” also refers to sparkling wines but with a lower level of carbonation compared to Spumante. The bubbles in Frizzante wines tend to be gentler and less persistent.
By understanding the terms and classifications on Italian wine labels, you can make more informed choices when selecting Italian wines. Whether you’re looking for an everyday drinking wine or a special bottle for a celebration, the label will provide valuable insights into the wine’s quality and characteristics.