Italian appellation system

Over the centuries Italians have pioneered laws to control the origins and protect the names of wines. The ancient Romans defined production areas for dozens of wines. In 1716, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany delimited the zones for important wines, setting a precedent for modern legislation. Yet only since the mid-1960s have controls been applied nationwide to wines of "particular reputation and worth" under what is known as "denominazione di origine controllata" or, by the initials, as DOC.

Sweeping changes in the wine laws of 1992 opened the way for DOC and DOCG wines to carry names of communities, areas of geographical or historical importance in the zones and names of individual vineyards of established reputation. "Indicazione geografica tipica" (IGT), designed to officially classify wines by colour or grape varieties and typology from large areas. IGT will be the Italian equivalent to the French "Vin de pays" and German "Landwein". Labels must carry the wine's generic name and status (DOCG, DOC, IGT, Vino da tavola), the producer's name and location, alcohol by percentage of volume, as well as the net contents

The four classes are: Vino da Tavola - Denotes wine from Italy: this is not always synonymous with other countries' legal definitions of 'table wine'. The appellation indicates either an inferior quaffing wine, or one that does not follow current wine law. Some quality wines do carry this appellation.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - Denotes wine from a more specific region within Italy. This appellation was created for the "new" wines of Italy, those that had broken the strict, old wine laws but were wines of great quality. Before the IGT was created, quality "Super Tuscan" wines such as Tignanello and Sassicaia were labeled Vino da Tavola. Denominazione di origine controllata DOC is an Italian quality assurance label for food products and especially wines. It is modelled after the French AOC. It was instituted in 1963 and overhauled in 1992 for compliance with the equivalent EU law on Protected Designation of Origin, which came into effect that year.

There are 2 levels of labels:
  • DOC — Denominazione di Origine Controllata
  • DOCG — Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita

  • DOCG regions are subterritories of DOC regions that produce outstanding products that may be subject to more stringent production and quality standards than the same products from the surrounding DOC region. A notable difference for wines is that DOCG labelled wines are analyzed and tasted by government–licensed personnel before being bottled. To prevent later manipulation, DOCG wine bottles then are sealed with a numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork – the red wine are having pink and white wine pale green seal.

    Italian legislation additionally regulates the use of the following qualifying terms for wines:
  • classico: is reserved for wines produced in the region where a particular type of wine has been produced "traditionally". For the Chianti classico, this "traditional region" is defined by a decree from July 10, 1932.
  • riserva: may be used only for wines that have been aged at least two years longer than normal for a particular type of wine.
  • Wines labelled DOC or DOCG may only be sold in bottles holding at most 5 liters.

    November 2008 there were 45 DOCG wine and 362 DOC wines.

    Super Tuscans The term "Super Tuscan" describes any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region. For example, Chianti Classico wines are made from a blend of grapes with Sangiovese as the dominant varietal in the blend. Super Tuscans often use other grapes, especially cabernet sauvignon, making them ineligible for DOC(G) classification under the traditional rules.

    In the 1970s Piero Antinori, whose family had been making wine for more than 600 years, decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend, and instead adding Bordeaux varietals (namely, cabernet sauvignon and merlot). He was inspired by a little-known (at the time) cabernet sauvignon made by relatives called Sassicaia, which openly flouted the rules set down for traditional wines in Tuscany. The result was the first Super Tuscan, which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter.

    Because these wines did not conform to strict DOC(G) classifications, they were initially labeled as vino da tavola, meaning "table wine," a term ordinarily reserved for lower quality wines. The creation of the Indicazione Geografica Tipica category (technically indicating a level of quality between vino da tavola and DOCG) helped bring Super Tuscans "back into the fold" from a regulatory standpoint