One of the best moments on any Al Fresco Holiday is that glass of wine on your decking as the sun goes down. But what wine should you buy - the local supermarkets nearly always have a great range, but how do you know what you’re buying? If you are enjoying a break in Italy make sure you read what those random letter on the label actually mean.


Similar to France's, Italy classifies wine into 4 levels of quality:

  • Vino da Tavola (Table Wine): This is the lowest quality category. Minimal (or no) regulation is imposed. For example, vintage date is not required. Also, there can be no association to region.
  • Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): This category was created to include quality wine produced in a DOC region but does not comply with its criteria. For example, SuperTuscans (Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon) would fall under this category.
  • Denominazione D'Origine Controllata (DOC): Wine subjects to rigid regional regulations on grape variety, yields per hectare, aging requirement, and vinification methods.
  • Denominazione D'Origine Controllata E Garantita (DOCG): A category for the most prestigious subregions in the DOC. Distinctive style, appellation reputation, and commercial success are the additional criteria.

Italian classification system has gone through rounds of improvement. Compared to France where one-third of the wine produced falls into the AOC category, only 14% of Italian wine is qualified DOC/DOCG. There are 300 DOCs and over 30 DOCGs. Three quarters of Italian wine falls in the vino da tavola (table wine) category.


Things that are good to know when reading Italian wine labels:

DOC and DOCG wines can be named in several ways: 

  • By appellation: for example Barolo or Brunello di Montalcino.
  • By varietal plus the region of origin: e.g. Nebbiolo d'Alba.
  • By color (for blends) plus the region of origin: e.g. Rossi di Montalcino is made from a blends of red grapes from Montalcino

Classico generally indicates a more prestigious sub-region. Valpolicella Classico, for instance, is the region known for superior Valpolicella. Similar for Soave Classico. 

Riserva and Superiore do not assure quality. Riserva implies additional aging and superiore means higher alcohol level. Given that Italy has 300 DOCs, these words are informative but don’t tell you the quality of wine.