Italian Wine Terms

Just what the heck is a DOC?

If you’ve ever gone shopping for wine in the Italian section, no doubt you’ve come across labels with unintelligible words followed by the abbreviations DOC, DOCG or even IGT. And if those terms are completely over your head, don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

The Italian wine system can take a lifetime to master. Within the 21 regions (or states) of Italy, there are 329 DOCs, 72 DOCGs, and a plethora of IGTs. Luckily, we’re just focusing on one region here.  

The Marche boasts 15 DOCs and 5 DOCGs, each of them unique in their composition and their locality. So, what exactly do these and other Italian terms mean? Read more as we dig into the mysterious world of Vini d’Italia.

DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata

Denomination of Controlled Origin – A system of rules that dictates the specific techniques and procedures that may go into a particular designation of wine, what the French would call an appellation. These may include geographical area, grape varietal(s), alcohol level, residual sugar level, type of wine (red,white, spumante, passito, vin santo).

DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllataunnamed e Garantata

Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin – Appellations with even tighter controls, dictating further into the notions of DO. This may include aging in oak and/or bottle, vineyard yield, alcohol level.

IGT – Indicazione di Geografica Tipica

Indication of Typical Geography – Wines of the IGT category have only one requirement: they must be grown within the region of status. IGT wines gained popularity with what you might know as Super Tuscans. When you hear this name, you should know right off it is categorized as a Toscana Rosso IGT, and this particular IGT will typically contain the Sangiovese grape blended with French grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or frankly whatever the winegrower feels like!

Similarly in the Marche, there are the wines labeled Marche Rosso IGT, Marche Bianco IGT, Marche Sangiovese IGT, Marche Trebbiano IGT, so on and so forth. With this status, winemakers are granted more creative freedom in their craft, and can explore into unknown territories with their wines as they see fit. IGT allows for them to truly express their artistic abilities with their wine, and the result is often something quite special indeed.

Outside of the numerous appellations to wade through, the Italians of course have various classifications for different types of wine. Here’s a list of common terms to familiarize yourself with:

Rosso – Red

Bianco – White

Rosato – Rosé

Spumante – Full sparkling

Frizzante – Half sparkling

Classico – A wine produced in the oldest part of the DOC territory

Riserva – Extended aging in oak and bottle for a specific period of time, usually 1-2 years, before release to the market

Novello – lighter body and lower alcohol by way of carbonic maceration. Usually meant to be drunk young. Similar classification to Beaujolais Nouveau

Superiore – Wine produced with grapes of a smaller yield per hectare, usually resulting in higher quality, higher concentration of tannins and higher alcohol

Passito – Late harvest/Fortified Dessert Wine

Vin Santo – Mulled wine, cooked and spiced

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