Deciphering Italian Wine Labels

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Why should I understand the language on a wine label?

Deciphering Italian Wine Labels

When you buy wine, you must understand the language on the label. Never is this more true then when choosing an Italian wine, which some say are the most difficult of all wine labels to understand. Italy's official wine names are called DOC or DOCG names. An Italian wine labeled with one of these acronyms means the wine has a pedigree of sorts. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which means "controlled (or protected) place name." DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, which translates as "controlled and guaranteed place name." As a general rule of thumb, Italian wines labeled DOC or DOCG are classic wines from the most important and prestigious wine zones. Not all Italian wines will have these labels and the ones that do not are not necessarily bad. Look for IGT labeled wines, which means Indicazione Geografica Tipica. Translated, that means "typical place name." These have less of a pedigree but are usually innovative. The IGT designation gives producers more freedom of individual expression than a DOC or DOCG wine does. These are great for the adventurous wine enthusiast. Wines labeled Vino da Tavola are simply "table wine." Producers of these wines cannot put a vintage year on the wine and cannot name the grape variety that made the wine.

   

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