Many people get intimidated by the Italian wine classification – and that gets worse when they don’t speak the language. But fear not!

By the way, what’s your mood like today? Do you remember those nice books with multiple endings when you were a kid? I’ve had a lot of fun with those! So… If your brain lusts for knowledge, you can read the whole timeline. If you want to go straight to the point, read only the “2011 and beyond” section.

To make the story short…

1861 – 1930: Vini Senza Indicazione

In 1861, Italy was born as a country, and back then, there was no special “Italian designation”.


1930 – 1963: Vini Senza Indicazione + Vini Tipici

In 1930, the scenario started to change and the Minister of Agriculture set 3 levels of classification for the Italian wines, known as Vini Tipici:

  • Special Wines (= Vini Speciali)
  • Superior Wines (= Vini Superiori) 
  • Fine Wines (= Vini Fini)


1963 – 1992: Vini Senza Indicazione + D.O.S. + D.O.C. + D.O.C.G.

In 1963, the D.P.R. (= Presidential Decree) n. 930 regarding the Denominazioni di Origine dei Vini (= Wine Designation of Origin) was issued – a big step for Italian wines! As a result, the new classification system became:

  • Vini a Denominazione di Origine Semplice (= D.O.S. = Simple Designation of Origin)
  • Vini a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (= D.O.C. = Controlled Designation of Origin)
  • Vini a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (= D.O.C.G. = Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin)

Therefore, thanks to this law, the first wines classified as D.O.C. (= Denominazione di Origine Controllata = Controlled Designation of Origin) came out in 1966. The very first Italian wine to be awarded the D.O.C. status was the Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Tuscan white wine made from the namesake grape, upgraded to D.O.C.G. = Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita = Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin in 1993).


1992 – 2009: V.D.T. + I.G.T. + D.O.C. + D.O.C.G.

As a matter of fact, it worked really well for many years. However, as time went by, it just wasn’t enough and it no longer satisfied the market’s needs. In 1992, the Law n. 164 introduced the idea of sottozone (= sub-areas, meaning specific areas inside a Wine Designation of Origin) and the I.G.T. designation (= Indicazione Geografica Tipica = Indication of Geographical Tipicity), among other things.
One could then find 4 designations for Italian wines:

  • Vini da Tavola (= V.D.T. = Table Wines)
  • Indicazione Geografica Tipica (= I.G.T. = Indication of Geographical Tipicity)
  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata (= D.O.C. = Controlled Designation of Origin)
  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (= D.O.C.G. = Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin)


2009 – 2011: QWPSR + Table Wine

The European Union (EU) is responsible for ~70% of the global wine production and ~60% of the global wine consumption. In 2008, the EU regulations regarding wine issues started to change and in order to simplify things, 2 main categories were created in 2009:

  • Quality Wine Produced in a Specified Region (= QWPSR)
  • Table Wine and Table Wine with a Geographical Indication

So QWPSR in Italy was equivalent to D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. put together. The Table Wine group displayed only the country of origin, whereas the Table Wine with a Geographical Indication also allowed to display the region of origin and in Italy the I.G.T. wines fell under this category. However, some prejudice revolved around the word table, because it evoked the idea of a low quality wine – in Europe. On the other hand, in America, table wine referred to “wine with an alcohol content below 14% ABV”.


2011 and beyond: PDO + PGI

Now to the recent Italian wine classification. From 2011, the two groups above have been replaced with:

  • Denominazione di Origine Protetta (= Protected Designation of Origin = PDO)
  • Indicazione Geografica Protetta (= Protected Geographical Indication = PGI)




The EU defines PDO as products that are “produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area, using recognised know-how”. In Italy, this group includes D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).
The PGI refers to the geographical area in which it is produced, processed, or prepared and it is equivalent to the former I.G.T. (Indicazione Geografica Tipica). Its production regulations are less severe than those applied to the PDO wines, but it does not mean that PGI wines are bad.

Mind you, though, that the designations I.G.T., D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. are still used in Italy; they have not vanished! Overall, you shouldn’t think that a D.O.C.G. is better than a D.O.C. or an I.G.T. It’s a vintner’s choice to classify their wines one way or another (given the fact that they’re of course compliant with all the rules imposed on each category).



Basically, the difference between I.G.T., D.O.C., and D.O.C.G. in the Italian wine classification lies on how strict the rules (stated in Ministerial Decrees) are in order to fall into those categories. That is to say:

  • D.O.C.G.: a small elite group of wines, produced in a small territory, its grapes and wines must be produced in a small area of origin, strict chemical and physical analysis are performed by the Authority, it gets judged by tasting panels and usually, before becoming a D.O.C.G., the wine keeps the D.O.C. denomination for at least 10 years;
  • D.O.C.: the rules here aren’t quite as strict as D.O.C.G.’s, less chemical and physical analysis are performed (compared to the previous category); it gets judged by one tasting panel, grapes and wines are produced in small/medium areas of origin and usually, before becoming a D.O.C., the wine keeps the I.G.T. denomination for at least 5 years;
  • I.G.T.: grapes and wines produced in vast areas of origin and it’s possible to mention the grape variety on the label.


Italian Wine Pyramid

Italian Wine categories:

At the present time, you can find the following designations in Italy:

  • 118  types of I.G.T. (PGI)
  • 330 types of D.O.C. (PDO)
  •    77 types of D.O.C.G. (PDO)

After all, I guess the story about the Italian wine classification wasn’t so short after all, was it?! Do not feel discouraged by all these names, because they’ll come to you with time. Why should I know these things, you say? Because each designation has got certain characteristics. For example: if you talk about “Barolo D.O.C.G.”, you know that this wine is made from Nebbiolo grapes; whereas if you talk about “Falerio D.O.C.”, you know that the wine in your glass is made from Trebbiano Toscano, Passerina and Pecorino grapes – AND eventually a 4th grape variety, in some cases.

In either case, are you particularly keen on any I.G.T., D.O.C. or D.O.C.G.  wine?