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Italian wine labels: Understanding DOCG, DOC & IGT

Ever wondered what the letters on your bottle of Italian wine mean? Here are some of the main differences between DOCG, DOC and IGT...

You may have seen the letters DOCG or IGT on Italian wine labels. They are part of the Italian wine classification system, which shares similarities with the French AOC appellation system.

Since its launch in the early 1960s, Italy’s system has undergone several key updates and refinements. The modern-day hierarchy has four tiers:

  • DOCG
  • DOC
  • IGT
  • VdT

While this is intended to provide a guide to quality, there are exceptions. Some Italian wineries opt out of DOC and DOCG rules, for instance, often to pursue different winemaking techniques or use particular grape varieties.


What it stands for: ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita’

DOCG is the highest tier of the Italian wine classification system.

It has the most stringent quality controls in place, with all wines undergoing analysis and testing by a government-approved panel.

In addition, yields are generally lower and barrel-ageing is longer than for a DOC. The geographical limits are usually more restrictive and tightly defined, too.

The first few DOCGs were introduced in 1980, and today there are still relatively few; just 77 across Italy.

Examples: Brunello di Montalcino DOCG; Barolo DOCG; Chianti DOCG; Franciacorta DOCG.


What it stands for: ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata’

DOCs provide the meat of quality Italian wine. They still provide strict rules on winemaking and are based on geographical areas, but the regulations are slightly more relaxed versus DOCGs. There are currently more than 330 DOCs in Italy.

Examples: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC; Aglianico del Vulture DOC; Bolgheri DOC; Soave DOC.


What it stands for: ‘Indicazione Geografica Tipica’

Created in 1992, IGTs were intended to provide a tier above the basic Vino da Tavola (VdT) for quality wines that didn’t meet the regulations for DOC or DOCG. So-called Super Tuscan wines are a prime example.

Today, the IGT classification is home to wines made in a more ‘international’ style, eschewing some of the traditional winemaking methods and grape variety stipulations set down by DOCs and DOCG regulations.

A wide range of quality and prices is represented, and there are currently more than 120 IGTs in Italy.

Examples: Toscana IGT; Veneto IGT; Puglia IGT; Isola dei Nuraghi IGT.

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