C. Classico Superiore
At the top of the Italian wine pyramid are the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wines. DOCG wines must meet Italy’s most stringent standards. Despite the word garantita, the quality is not being guaranteed exactly, although all wines do undergo analysis and testing by a government-approved panel. Yields are generally low. Barrel aging is usually long. Grape varieties are legally specified by percentage. The first DOCGs were named in 1980 (Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Barolo DOCG, Franciacorta DOCG, and others). As of 2023, there are 76 DOCGs across Italy. They are usually (but not always) Italy’s most expensive wines. While most Italian wine producers have stayed with the DOC/DOCG system, some have adopted the EU classifications instead. The highest level in the EU system is PDO, Protected Designation of Origin, which is written in Italian as DOP, Denominazione di Origine Protetta. So a DOCG would be equal to a European Union PDO; which is written in Italian as DOP. Clear as mud, right?