Whenever my students, readers, or colleagues ask me about the Italian DOC and DOCG systems and what is the difference between the two, I always tell them: It’s important to keep in mind that the Italian appellation system was created not to protect the consumer or to enhance Italian producers’s capabilities in marketing their wines. It was created — as the dearly missed Teobaldo (Baldo) Cappellano pointed out in the Brunello Debate of October 2008 — to protect the territories where the wines are produced.
There is a widespread misconception of the system — for which Italian producers and North American educators are to blame — that the DOCG denoted a higher level of quality “controlled and guaranteed” by authorities for the protection of consumers. In fact, the DOCG represents more rigorous “monitoring” (as we would say in UN-speak) of practices “on the ground,” intended to protect the appellations themselves. In other words, these more stringent regulations were created and implemented to ensure that once a winemaking tradition was officially established, it would enjoy the support of the state when threatened by outside forces or internally unscrupulous producers.
Salice Salentino Rosato, you wonder? Or a rosé from Nebbiolo or perhaps Sangiovese? No, Italy’s first rosé DOCG is Castel del Monte Bombino Nero, an appellation that allows for the following grape varieties:
Bombino Nero and/or Aglianico and/or Uva di Troia from 65-100%. Other grapes allowed in the production of this wine, by themselves or blended, include non-aromatic grape varieties recommended and/or authorized by the Province of Bari, provided they are grown locally, [for] up to 35% of the blend.
As they say in Italian, siamo arrivati alla frutta, in other words, it’s time for the [poison-laced] fruit at the end of the meal, a common technique for assassination in the Middle Ages.
The Italian DOCG system has been co-opted, colonized, and raped (there is no better word) by misguided and misinformed, greedy robber-baron Italian producers and money-grubbing politicians who have used lobbying and gerrymandering to create a false “luxury brand” for the sole purpose of lining their pockets with dollars of innocent North American consumers. How many times have you visited a wine store where some young and well-intentioned sales person has told you: See the DOCG label on the Chianti Classico? That means it’s a better wine than the DOC.
Today, the Italian DOCG system is the saddest form of wine writing (vinography) that I have ever encountered. It makes me want to heave.
For the most up-to-date and ever-growing list of Italian DOCGs, see Alfonso’s post here.