DOC, DOCG, IGT! How to read Italian wine labels

DOC, DOCG, IGT! How to read Italian wine labels

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Doc, Igt, Docg, Vsq, Vsqprd … and so on. Are they scrambled up words or are we talking about wine?  They are a series of acronyms indicating designation, labelling and origin used to describe the specificity of a wine, its production area and whether it belongs to a “protected” category. They are key words that will guide us in our Special on Labels.

This article is about designation of origin, how the history of great Italian wines is marked by quality brands and how they evolved over time, prior to the disappearance of the Doc and Docg label that were replaced by the Dop category. The intent of  the Community legislation was in fact to simplify the set of brands and designations, so that they encompass the categories already in place for the food market (the PDO, in fact, as the Mozzarella di Bufala or Modena’s Balsamic Vinegar),  and eliminate the indications specific to wine. This, of course, does not affect the quality: a Brunello will always be the same and so will a  Barolo, an Irpinia Fiano or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The designation of origin has changed, which is what actually certifies the origin of the vine. You may ask yourself the reason behind all these conditions. To answer we can refer you to a quote from “The Gattopardo” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, “For things to remain the same, everything must change.” Here we will see why.

We want to give you a little guide that will help you recognize the labels, understand existing food law and not get lost in the vast world of Italian viticulture. We will analyse and trace a brief history in order to understand what changes have taken place and what has stayed the same with the new guidelines introduced by the 2008 CE Regulation  no. 479, concerning  the wine market and the subsequent 2013 regulation no. 1308, which partially repeals it. We will see that the so-called “pyramid of quality” introduced in 1992 (Igt, Doc and Docg) was substantially eliminated to encourage the integration and harmonization of typologies and recognized brands. An easy example: to group the labels Doc and Docg under the same designation (Pdo), would result in a lesser distinction between the two brands on behalf of consumers.

In addition, the Docg specified areas, such as Doc and Igt, will continue to maintain their own brand together with the protected designation of origin, thus retaining the specificity that they have had since the early nineties (when the term was introduced). The already mentioned European Regulation no. 1308 (“Common Organisation of the Markets of Agricultural Products”) revives historic Italian wine brands, allowing them to appear on the labels next to the recent Igp and Dop;  this, as if to remind us that Italian wines have many unique characteristics.  ‘Much Ado about Nothing’, Shakespeare would say. After all, on closer inspection, despite all the rules and regulations nothing has changed much.

Moreover, what really has never changed (and presumably will never change) are the basic rules: the Dop or Igp category must appear on the label (front or back, clearly visible without having to turn the bottle), percentage of alcohol, indications of origin (producer or bottler, lot number, sulphite indicators and the importer).