The Italian DOC/G system is dying

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.

Today, over at VinoWire, Italy’s A-number-1 wine blogger Franco Ziliani and I have posted his observations and commentary on the creation of Italy’s first-ever DOCG for rosé.

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.

17 thoughts on “The Italian DOC/G system is dying

  1. Pingback: Italian Appellation System and Consumer Protection | winingways

  2. Well written Jeremy, I should add that whoever wants to sell whatever DOCG wine has to add to the label a pink strip with a number. This strip is given accordingly to the number of bottles declared and is a a guarantee that the wine is not a fake. Each one costs a certain amount. Practically another hidden tax.

  3. I totally agree Jeremy! Monday I’ll publish in my blog Vino al vino the reply to my articles concerning the drifting of Italian Appellation System of the President of Comitato nazionale vini Doc, the authority who decide to accept the request of new wine appellation. This is an answer to put it bluntly ridiculous…

  4. Pingback: History’s Lessons Drowned in Red Wine

  5. Good analyses. Hurtling (hurling?) accusations at the politicos behind the system may be warranted, but there are also plenty of ethical producers in Italy who follow the intent of the law as originally conceived. We have a producer we import who made it his life’s work in his 20s to elevate an almost extinct local varietal & its traditional vinting to DOCG status, finally achieving that by his mid-70s. Should we take that accomplishment away from him & like-minded producers? It wouldn’t hurt consumers to remember in the face of this well-earned criticism — the dilution of the DOCG system — that many of the red-necked bottles lining the shelves are, indeed, something special that represents a unique terroir & tradition.

  6. I’ve haphazardly followed the DOCG changes via your blog. It seems like it’s a marketing problem first and foremost, sorta like a shelftalker for Italian wines. I get it from a marketing perspective, but it’s not something I consider when buying wine.

  7. Well if they can do it in Champgane e Bordeaux why noyIin Italy. I think you have to keep in mind this bizz goes on everywhere look for instant for use of the words ‘biologiacal, artisinal, homemade etc’ they are or are regarded also as a sort of appellation and in the end worth zilch. I think the problem is more lack of taste (or tasting) and interest in wine (and food) in general. There is great wine around no matter the appellation and quite easy to get oh and affordable.
    Give two people ingredients for bread and even when they are skilled bakers they will come up with something different. Same goes for grapes. Appellation is a shortcut and as with most things in life most shortcuts lead you astray.
    Btw. Another analogy Greece has some problems despite the EU appellation, wait for your beloved wine country to be found out………

  8. Kick the can down the road far enough and eventually you break your foot or something like that right? I was at the lady who you went hunting with yesterday. She told me that to be within the rules of her DOCG she needs to have an oenologist. Didn’t know wether I had to laugh or cry specially if she, to my taste, at least is the only one who makes gulpable wine (yes that is a criterium for me sorry). Anyway I laughed, did you see the base rate change for the Italian gov btw. they have been kicking to, for a very long time and adesso……

  9. Great article, Jeremy. I’m sharing it with my peeps, as for all us non-experts it’s a concise overview of the Italian labeling system.

    I think the “makes me want to heave” means you’re not wishy-washy on your opinion? :) Well done.


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