decoding an Italian Wine label


Italian wine labels have a lot of information on them critical to understanding what's in the bottle. It is an appelation-based system in that the specific information on a wine label is determined by the specific appelation's quality level rules and regulations. The label below for a Dolcetto di Dogliani producer is a good example of the information contained on a label for an appelation wine:

iDolcetto Lable


Wine classifications are also indicated on wine labels. The Italians have strict controls on their wines with regulations to ensure origin, inherent quality, and authenticity. The main classifications of Italian wine are:

Vino da Tavola (vee’ noh da tav’ oh lah) — indicates ordinary table wine and provides the producer with considerable flexibility in terms of what information to provide on the label. These wines do not have to specify the grape variety, vintage or place of origin on their label and do not conform to DOC regulations on grape types or vinification techniques.

IGT — Indicazione Geografica Tipica (in dae caht zee oh’ nae gee oh’ graf’ e cah tee’ pee ca). This appellation was established after the DOC and DOCG designations were created in order to accommodate growers who for one reason or another couldn't - or didn’t want to - meet the requirements for DOC or DOCG designation. This appllation permits producers greater flexibility in both vineyard management and cellaring procedures in crafting wines that are considered to be of higher quality than simple table wines (Vino da Tavola). Were it not for this category, world-class Super-Tuscan wines such as Tignanello and Sassicaia, among others, would otherwise be classified as simple Vino da Tavola wines.

DOC — Denominazione di Origine Controllata (dae no mee naht zee oh’ nae dee oh ree’ gee nae con trol lah’ tah) literally, controlled denomination of area.  It denotes a specific type of wine with controls on the area in which the grapes must be grown usually with other specifications for grape varieties, color, aroma, flavor, alcohol content, acidity, aging procedures and/or period of aging.

DOCG — Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita  (dae no mee naht zee oh’ nae dee oh ree’ gee nae con trol lah’ tah ae gah ren tee’ tah) literally, controlled denomination of area and guaranteed. This is the premier classification for Italian wines (see exception below). More stringent standards are imposed for DOCG wines than DOC wines such as lower yield requirements on vineyards, submitting wines for taste tests by tasting panels and to in-depth chemical analyses before bottling.

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (grahn se le ziohn' ney), a new level of Chianti Classico DOCG wines that resides at the top of the Chianti Classico quality pyramid. Officially approved in February 2014, Gran Selezione (Great Selection) wines must be made solely with grapes from the winery's own vineyards and also meet upgraded requirements for alcohol (minimum 13 percent), extract (minimum 26 grams per liter) and ageing (minimum 30 months).


Richard Marcis
Updated June 2, 2017



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