Wine is one of the pleasures in a man’s life. It is extremely versatile and both men and women have a personal favourite kind of wine. Italy is the leading country for wine production in the world. But it’s not only about quantity, it’s also for its quality that Italy’s production shines. With the widest varieties of grapes cultivated, there are some which are internationally renowned to be among the best in the world. Let’s have a closer look at the best Italian wines according to their characteristics.
First of all, we can divide Italian wines into five macro categories, making them correspond to the steps of a pyramid: at the base are generic wines, followed by varietal wines, then IGT wines; in the first places we find DOC wines and finally at the top of the pyramid there are DOCG wines.
To understand and evaluate the quality of an Italian wine, first you have to understand the meaning of the following acronyms: IGT, DOC and DOCG. Let’s see one by one what their meaning is.
IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica (literally meaning Typical Geographical Indication). Due to a prior commercial choice of the producers or due to their specific composition, they do not have the suitable requirements to be classified among DOC or DOCG wines. But these are excellent products that stand out for texture, flavour and aroma compared to the simpler and cheaper table wines. Before gaining IGT recognition, a wine is carefully checked and must have precise characteristics established by specific laws and regulations. On average we can consider IGT wines as fine table wines.
DOC is the acronym for Denominazione d’Origine Controllata (Controlled Designation of Origin) and indicates wines that are produced with grapes harvested in a specific area. The acronym is indicated on the labels to make it clear that wine is a quality product that has very specific characteristics, made with raw materials from a specific area and following a precise production specification, determined by ministerial decree.
DOCG stands for Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) and gives greater prestige to the label.
So which is the difference between DOC and DOCG?
Usually a DOC wine is a wine that has kept the IGT (Typical Geographical Indication) designation for at least 5 years. While when a wine has been at least 10 years DOC it then can become DOCG.
Looking at it this way, it seems that every DOC wine will automatically becomes a DOCG wine. But that’s not exactly the case. The “upgrade” occurs only for wines that pass certain organoleptic and chemical-physical analyzes which serve to establish that the wine examined complies with the requirements of the specification. These tests are carried out both in the production phase and during the bottling phase, when a commission proceeds with the tasting. Only if the wine passes these tests, it can display the DOCG writing on the label.
Best Italian wines
At the first position, we find three wines which are worldwide famous and your preference of one over the other is just a matter of taste.
Barolo is called the “king of wines, the wine of kings”, it is produced only with Nebbiolo vine variety along with its different sub varieties: Lampia, Michet and Rosè. It is produced in Piedmont region and specifically in a hilly area called Langhe in Piedmont region.
Brunello di Montalcino
From Tuscany another gift to human kind: Brunello di Montalcino. This extremely well balanced wine is obtained from San Giovese grapes in the area of Montalcino, a town in province of Siena, where the vine is traditionally called “Brunello”.
Amarone della Valpolicella
Amarone della Valpolicella, known simply as Amarone, it is produced in Valpolicella, a hilly area north of Verona, in Veneto region. It is produced mainly with two grapes: Corvina (45-95%) Rondinella (5-30%). Another grape called Corvinone can be used instead of Corvina to the maximum extent of 50%.
These three wines are worldwide well known and you cannot go wrong with any of them. But if you are on of those who doesn’t look for easy things and really wants to stand out, well, luckily I have some other advices for you.
When you look for a good Italian wine, as you just learned, the first thing to check on the label are the acronyms DOC and DOCG. Now, does it mean that every time we see a DOC or DOCG wine it is better than another wine without the same writings on the label? Yes and no:
- Yes because usually it should be like this and choosing a wine with one of these acronyms on the label assures you are choosing a wine produced according to the specification and high quality standards.
- No because some of the best Italian wines have are not DOC nor DOCG, simply because the producers don’t strictly follow the rules to enter a specific classification and prefer to get the best out of their grapes according to their taste.
This is the case of Super Tuscans, Tuscany wines that don’t follow the procedure to have any particular appellation but can be among the best and even the most expensive. These wines are based on a combination of grapes typical of Bordeaux wines. Mixing Sangiovese with non-indigenous grapes, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, made these wines not eligible for the Chianti DOC label. The first Super Tuscan is considered to be Sassicaia, but the milestone in this regard is Tignanello, both from the well known wine company Antinori.
Now that you know the theory, you just have to choose any of these wines, uncork the bottle, up the glasses and, as they say in Italy, Cin Cin or Alla salute!