Have you ever seen the letters DOCG on a bottle of Italian wine? We are going to bring down what DOCG means and real insider truth about Italy’s top wine classification.
The beginning of this article will tell you basically what almost any other wine education site will tell you.
The second part of the article will tell you the inside scoop so you can make intelligent buying decisions when you’re shopping for Italian wine.
The Italians developed a classification system for all their wines. There are basically three you absolutely must know. The others you can read about in Hidden Gems of Italy.
The DOCG is a classification but you could also think of it as a very difficult certification. It has the strictest rules in order to be classified as a DOCG. In order to obtain a DOCG, the winery and its vineyards must be located within the borders of a specific appellation. An appellation is a usually a tiny area where a specific wine type is produced and exhibits specific characteristics in taste, aromatics, and texture.
DOCG is an acronym for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.
In English, this phrase means, “Denomination of origin has been inspected and guaranteed.”
What DOCG Means
When you see DOCG or the full phrase written out on the Italian wine label, it means a governmental agency has inspected the wine, tested the wine, analyzed the wine in terms of its chemical makeup, and garantees that the wine type is exactly what it claims to be, and is produced in exactly the place that it claims to be made in. It also guarantees that the wine was produced according to the rules of the DOCG.
Why Do Some Italian Wines Have A DOCG And Others Don’t?
At the end of the day, reason comes down to beauacracy. For an appellation to become a DOCG, it must first be classified as DOC for a number of years. After this period, the DOC can apply to become a DOCG but there is no guarantee it will be approved by the Italian government.
The DOCG came about because the coveted DOC was sort of losing its value. The rules had become too lenient, and the great wines of Italy, in particular the northern regions of Piemonte, Veneto, and Toscana wanted to differentiate themselves from the DOC by raising the standards of classification.
Should You Only Buy DOCG?
The short answer is no. Just because an Italian wine obtained a DOCG doesn’t mean it’s a great wine.
It’s just like saying I have a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry but I’m hardly a Chemistry expert. A college degree means that the student did all the work and passed all the exams to obtain that degree. The degree itself doesn’t mean that the student is an expert of Chemistry.
I’d argue that there are many great Italian wines with the DOC or IGT classifications. There are many reasons why these great wines don’t have the DOC or IGT. But the best part is that it creates a buying opportunity for us Italian wine lovers who are looking for that $20 bottle that tastes like $50. You can read more about how to find those types of wines in Hidden Gems of Italy.
When Does A DOCG Italian Wine Matter?
I’ve had a Chianti Riserva DOCG that tasted like liquid rusty iron. I’ve had a Barolo DOCG that burnt my throat as if I was swallowing jet fuel. I’m exaggerating to make a point: I’ve had plenty of DOCG Italian wines that were not good wines.
I’m not saying you should forget about DOCG wines. I just don’t want you buying an Italian wine simply because it has the DOCG classification.
This is where Italian wine lovers make a mistake. They read or hear that DOCG means that the wine is of the highest quality because of its high standards. But as I illustrated with the chemistry student, following rules doesn’t necessarily equal greatness.
How Should You Buy An Italian Wine DOCG?
Now, if you find a DOCG Italian wine that you absolutely love, tastes great, well-balanced, then you should expect to pay a higher price for that wine because it’s both great and classified as DOCG.
If you’re going to pay a premium price for an Italian wine, don’t pay it simply because of the classification. There are much better ways to buy Italian wine. You can learn how to shop intelligently for Italian wine by getting a copy of Hidden Gems of Italy: An Insider’s Secret Formula To Find Top-Class Italian Wines And Taste La Dolce Vita.