The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) system first started in 1963 and today there are 329 different DOC’s and 73 DOCG’s. The Italian system was originally designed to champion the indigenous grapes of Italy and wines with higher-tiered DOCG status contain unique-to-Italy grapes. Still, producers make very high quality wines with French grapes as well, such as the Super Tuscan blend with Merlot and Cabernet. However, since the grapes are not of Italian origin, the wines are typically demoted to IGT status.
Here are some common Italian wine terms that are useful to know:
- Classico: Between the 1960’s and 1970’s many DOC boundaries were revised to include a larger area. The ‘Classico’ denomination thus refers to the original smaller boundaries of the wine-making area.
- Superiore: Superiore is often used as a production quality standard usually indicating a higher minimum quality of wine grapes and often minimum aging required before the wine is released
- Riserva: This term is typically used as a production quality standard most often referring to extended aging of a wine prior to release. Many producers only make Riserva wines on exceptional vintages.