The wine denomination in the Italian system, defines 4 most important subdivisions, which are: table wine, igt/igp, doc, docg.
As shown in the graphic, at each level there is a correspondent wine availability, zone delimitation and value. At base, a generic denomination which defines a much wider area of grape sourcing, for a given wine, i.e. in the table wine denomination, a wine can be made of grapes sourced all over italy, with no indication of specific grapes. Belonging to this level white and red table wine.
From the IGT/IGP level wines are made sourcing the grapes from a more defined area such as the whole Region, like IGT Veneto or a Province like IGT Verona. It is not uncommon that wines from this level can be processed and bottled out of the zone. Availability is still ample. A great exception of the above is the famous supertuscan wine, everybody knows, which is an IGT and is priced well over many DOCG wines.
At DOC level the sourcing of grapes become more stringent, narrowing even further the area of production, or defining specific procedures to control quality and quantity. The DOC can still includes a whole Region, for example DOC delle Venezie or DOC Sicilia. More often the denomination is linked to a specific place as a town: DOC Garda, DOC Treviso, etc. For control purpose, the DOC wine wears a government sticker which control the overall production of a specific wine. Availability is very much reduced. Only few wines can be bottled out of the intended Region. The latest example has been the former IGT Veneto Pinot Grigio, which moved to the higher level of DOC. The consortium intention has been to define a specific area, quantity and quality of a highly requested wine, and set it apart from other similar IGT productions of the same varietal, now day available in many regions.
From the DOCG level we can expect a very selected, controlled wine. The area of production is limited to a specific sub area inside a region. However, few exceptions exist, like in Tuscany, where some of the DOCG , namely the Chianti, are widely produced from a very large area.
Rules to produce such wines are very detailed, and there are a lot of limitation in the view to protect, and preserve, the specific features of this wines, usually very much linked to the terroir.
The DOCG wines wear the government sticker to identify the yearly production and protect from unwanted overproduction and fraud.
Amarone has moved from DOC to DOCG with 2009 vintage, which was released in 2012.
How to read the wine label.
With so many written information, we can easily make some false assumption of the information, the producer, or the law, is conveying to us. Let’s clarify a bit.
In our system we define the front label, the one which is physically on the front, i.e. the one facing us on the shelf. In reality, by law, the front label is the one carrying all the compulsory info, wherever the place the label is applied.
The most important information is the zoning. It defines in an implicit way, the quality of the wine, and the place where the wine is produced. The correct format for the IGT/IGP, has the zoning ALWAYS immediately under the name of the place: region, province, town, etc. For the DOC and DOCG the zoning must be soon below the name of the wine.
The name of the wine is the info that tells you what varietal, blend, and most in general, what wine you are going to taste. Some wine has name that does not coincide with the grapes is made from; Ripasso is one of this. Formerly a system to produce a wine, Ripasso is now part of the wine name: Valpolicella Ripasso, while the grapes are Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and others.
The compulsory info are required by law, but the one that can directly interest you, is the producer. This info tells you what establishment, other than the brand owner, bottles, produces, processes the wine. It shows also the place where the winery is from. This information is the one that tricks most of the consumers. It is not uncommon to see a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, bottled by a winery in Veneto. Check here why.
Brand/fancy name is the “title” of the wine. It could be anything, and it is the info, most of the consumers rely on to identify a bottle of wine, also because is the info that is easily find on the larger label, the one people see first on the shelf. As a magnet, it could attract the buyer along with the overall layout of the label, for its color, finishing, evocative words. If it is the winery name, it tells who is the producer or the promoter of that brand.
What Does Ripasso Mean.
One of the most sought (and copied) wine now day, is produced using an ancient technique, old time growers invented as a way to enrich simple wines.
BE OR WANNABE?
Technically ri-passo describe the action of passing twice something. For instance we say “Ok, ripasso”, when stopping by at our friend house, his/her mother inform us that he/she is out, i.e. we will pass (by) another time.
In Valpolicella, producers had rich wines like Recioto (Amarone going sweet), and the Amarone, along with the more immediate and simple Valpolicella wine. The making of Recioto and Amarone produces lees and left over material, still rich of tannins and extracts. It is obvious that putting again this lees in contact with a wine would enrich it. This was!
Due to the great success and worldwide request this wine received, the system would not work nay further. It was necessary a much bigger amount of Amarone or Recioto production, to get the required amount of lees to do Ripasso. But both productions are of limited quantity by nature. So today is common to use a partial Amarone procedure, to do the Ripasso, which is: a careful selection of the grapes, stored aside to dry with a less longer time frame than the Amarone. The drying process increase the sugar content of the grape by reducing the water inside the fruit. As consequence, the resulting wine juice will produce more alcohol during the fermentation.
The Ripasso, word is today registered and protected by the Chamber of Commerce of Verona. It has today its own market, and sounding alike competitors, a great production, and good amount of attentions and reasons to be one of the great wine available in Valpolicella, and his approachable, yet complex character, won to it the nickname of “baby amarone”.