DOCG - Primer
All Italian wines fall into one of the four categories on the pyramid. Think about it as a pecking order of quality, with the DOCG at the pinnacle.
Wines have been produced in Italy for over 2,000 years, but it wasn't until 1963 that Italy installed a wine system of quality. So when you consider that Bordeaux implemented its famous Grand Cru classification in 1855, Italy at that time, had no unified system of quality in their country. In 2009, Italy conformed its system with the newly enacted European Union classification system. Today, you may see either the Italian or EU classification name on the label. But suffice to say, the Italians really lagged behind the french here. And while the Italian wine classification system was modeled after the French, one key difference is that it has two quality classifications that fall within the EU top level "PDO" designation: DOCG and DOC. Collectively, these wines account for about thirty percent of all Italian wine production.
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is the highest Italian quality level and as of today, there are 77 DOCGs across 21 larger wine zones. Note, however, that despite the use of the word "garantita" (guarantee), the DOCG designation doesn't really guarantee the quality of a specific wine. That is because the classification is awarded to specific regions, not to particular vineyards or producers. Thus, all producers in Chianti Classico are DOCG, but the quality of wines will vary among producers!
At the highest level, to qualify as a DOCG, a wine must:
- come from a specified geographical area.
- be made from authorized grape varieties.
- conform with strict regulations on how the grapes are grown, how the wine is made and aged.
- conform with restrictions on the amount of grapes ("yield") that can be produced.
DOCG wines generally come from smaller delimited areas than lower quality wines, and are held to stricter production standards, both in the vineyards and in the winery. These wines must undergo both a laboratory analysis and a blind tasting to assure conformity with the region's wine laws. Before an appellation can be promoted to DOCG, it must have held DOC status for 10 years!
This week, we'll focus on just four distinct DOCGs:
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva DOCG
Chianti Classico DOCG
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG
Explore more, with your palate... This week's flight of FOUR DOCG examples is $25!
More DOCGs to come... so get ready this year for more, in an extended series on Italy's DOCGs. There is so much to explore, so we'll eat this elephant one bite at a time.