Understanding the Categories of Italian Wine
Because Italy is a member of the European Union, her official system of categorizing wines (her appellation system) must conform to the two-tier EU system. This system distinguishes quality wines from tables wines.
In the upper tier — Quality Wines Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) — Italy has two categories of wine:
DOCG wines (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), translated as regulated and guaranteed place-name, a small group of elite wines. The long Italian phrase corresponding to the initials DOCG appears on the labels of these wines.
DOC wines (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), translated as regulated place-name, Italy’s basic QWPSR wines. The phrase Denominazione di Origine Controllata appears on the labels of these wines.
The terms DOC and DOCG refer both to wine zones and the wines of those zones. The DOCG Soave, for example, is both a place (a specific production zone defined and regulated by Italian law, named after a town called Soave) and the wine of that place.
In the lower EU tier — table wine — Italy has another two categories of wine:
IGT wines (Indicazione di Geografica Tipica), which are table wines with a geographic indication on the label. Most of these wines were previously labeled as vino da tavola followed by a geographic designation, and you still find this wording on some labels.
Ordinary table wines that carry no geographical indication except “Italy.”