Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Italian System, Part 2

Just when I thought I could stick the cork back into the bottle on this subject, I turned to Wikipedia for a final consult only to find some new information.  In 2010, Italy again revised its classification, this time to ensure it would be consistent with larger European Union pronouncements.  I view these changes as an overlay that aligns the system of the last fifty years with current EU requirements.

There are again four levels in this new system, the first of which only applies to Italy as a producer of bulk wine.  This basic level is called "Vini", which is meant to denote generic wine from anywhere in the EU.  Italy, being a net exporter of wine, will contribute much "Vini" wine without attribution since by law, this quality level does not allow geographical origin to be posted on the label.  Also no vintage dates or grape varieties are allowed on these labels.  What little is allowed on these new labels, seems to defy the reason for wine laws in the first place since they were meant to educate the consumer by putting as much information on the label as possible.

The second level is called "Vini Varietali", or varietal wines, which again can come from anywhere in the EU.  These wines must be "international" varieties which must make up at least 85% of the blend if it isn't a single varietal.  At this level the grape varieties and vintage may be printed on the label but again Italy gets no respect because geographical information is again not allowed.

"Vini IGP" or "wines with protected geographical indication", corresponds to the existing IGT classification.  There are currently 118 of those and you can refer to the preceding post for more information on that classification.

"Vini DOP" or "wines with protected designation of origin" is the fourth and highest category and it includes two sub-categories: Vini DOC and Vini DOCG, and yes, these coorespond to the existing classifications first codified in 1963 but with contingencies.  DOCs have to have first been IGPs for five years and even then it is expected that only a subregion will be elevated due to climate, geology, and originality of winemaking tradition.  Naturally, stricter production regulations follow with admittance into the higher category.  Then for a DOC to become a DOCG a ten year historic evaluation must pass and with admittance comes the expected even higher scrutiny.

Currently there are 330 DOCs and 73 DOCGs in Italy.  With the new system that means there are now 403 DOPs.  Familiar terms like Classico, Superiore, and Riserva all carry over into the new system but, like the above, get tweaked in meaning.

So what does all of this mean?  For now, go by the rules of the preceding post.  At some point in the not too distant future, the United States of Europe will stamp their new imprimatur on the state of Italy

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