DOCG, DOC, IGT? Understanding these mysterious tags on wines.
A problem that we often run into is that of finding ourselves in front of dozens of bottles of wine with, or sometimes without, these mysterious labels that confuse us on where to go to parry to choose a decent wine.
DOC, DOCG? IGT? What the hell do they mean? We take it for granted that if the farm has taken the trouble to put a label, that the wine will probably be better than the anonymous one on the next shelf, and instead... Let's dispel some myths about these blessed labels and explain once and for all what they mean.
IGT, means typical geographical indication. IGT is one step lower than DOC and DOCG because the label shows the production area, but only for the vine of origin or the vintage of the grapes. Obviously it does not mean that the wine is necessarily of lower quality, but simply that it does not meet the requirements required by the specifications. After 5 years, an IGT can aspire to become a DOC.
DOC means denomination of controlled origin, this means that the wine is produced in a specific geographical area and the vines also belong to this specific area. So, it is a label that gives us concrete information about wine; what wine it is, and where it comes from, and therefore, yes, as a rule, it is a form of guarantee.
DOCG means controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin and is the most complex of the three specifications. To become DOCG, a wine needs at least 10 years of aging and, before being put on the market, it is subjected to a very important chemical and sensorial analysis: if the given wine does not correspond to the specification of the scents of that specific wine, it cannot be called such. In other words, if for example a Barolo does not correspond to the sensorial discipline of Barolo it will not be called Barolo, but it will be bottled anyway, under a different name.
So, of course, these labels offer a guarantee - they all call autochthonous and purely Italian vines - but obviously there are exceptions and in this world where marketing dictates the rules it can happen that an IGT is better than a DOC and so away - often the choice label/non label is given by commercial choices.
It can also happen that the wine in question is excellent, but contains non-Italian vines, as happens with Super Tuscan - very famous and exceptional wines but which contain French and not only Italian vines . Consequently, despite the quality, they are not suitable for being labeled as such.
Often, even very good and extremely affordable wines such as southern Italian wines do not have labels, but most of the time they are better than the cheap classic Chianti.
So what we can draw from this short lesson is that yes, the labels are a guarantee of a good production and provenance process, but this does not mean that they are necessarily complex or very good wines. So, we don't discard a wine just because it doesn't have the label, on the contrary. Rather, we must learn about the vines, how they are mixed, the farms, the regions where certain wines are produced and so on. But, in doubt, always a guarantee more than nothing!