August’s theme for wine tastings is “Italian Locations.” Italy is known the world over as home to the finest wines being made today. I want to bring some of that tradition to the table this month at Lamberti’s.
Italy has made strides to protect the great traditions that have sprung up in wine making regions across the country. Knowing a little about the law can help you pick out the right wine (even if you don’t speak Italian!), and gain some appreciation for just what goes into each bottle. In Italy, there are four basic divisions: IGP, IGT, DOC, and DOCG.
Before we delve into detail, keep in mind that these divisions are NOT straight indicators of quality. Rather, they tell you about how and where the wine was made. It’s true that certain grapes grow better in certain places, and that certain local techniques usually make good wine. BUT! It all depends on the people involved. A fully-certified wine maker can make weak wine, and an unknown or underfunded winemaker can make great wine. All the label tells us is where its from and how its made.
IGP and IGT stand for Indicazione Geografica Protetta and Indicazione Geografica Tipica, respectively. These marks mean that the wine in the bottle is guaranteed to come from the place it claims to be from, and nothing else. There are no special rules about what type of grape is used, and no special rules about how the wine is made. Say a winemaker owns land in Chianti, Tuscany, but wants to grow some Cabernet grapes for his American consumers to enjoy. He gets an IGT, because he is not making wine according to the special Chianti wine rules. It’s guaranteed to be Tuscan, but that’s it! The rest is up to the winemaker.
DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata. Wines with this mark must be made a certain way (according to the tradition of the land), and are guaranteed to be from where they claim to be from. For example, if you see a Chianti without a DOC, it is a lie! Chianti follows special rules in the winemaking process. No DOC, no guarantee that the winemaker is following those rules.
Finally, DOCG, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This is the strictest level of certification. Wines with the DOCG must be made according to the most particular rules. These rules depend on the specific requirements of that region’s traditional way of doing things. For example, anyone can attempt to make a Brunello-style wine, but only Sangiovese Grosso grapes grown in Montalcino, pressed a certain way, aged a certain length, etc. can be called Brunello DOCG.
Keep in mind that the system was put in place to protect the traditions of Italy, and to help consumers navigate the millions of different labels available to them. You don’t have to know any of this to enjoy wine. I certainly enjoyed my share before knowing DOCG from AC/DC. As with anything, learning more helps us appreciate more, which is a different pleasure from the one already awaiting you in the glass.
Join us on a Thursday afternoon to learn more, drink more, and enjoy more wine!
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