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Italian Wine Classifications - A Sicilian Sip

Italy takes its wine seriously.

Italians are more than content to fill their glasses and are relatively unconcerned about whether the tourists join them. Wine is a way of life for the population regardless of social class or status.

The public abroad however are fiercely interested in these traditions, flavours and lifestyle choices, and are drawn like magnets to all things Italian.

There is not a country on the planet that has not been influenced by the fashion labels, foods or cars of Italy, and more and more people, as the decades roll on are keen to know not only if their wine is of Italian origin but more precisely which region is the wine derived and which winemaker produced it. No longer are these the questions for the upper classes but of the everyday tourist whilst in Italy or at home wanting to have a feel of the land in their glasses at their tables and to immerse themselves in the wine awareness that most Italian youth posses as part of growing up.

The pandoras box of Italian wine…

There are ways to classify or judge a wine - an everyday, a vintage or just good value for its class.

The various types & categories and the key to labelling acronyms:










Italian laws were passed in the mid 1960’s to categorise and control the production of all wines, grapes and producers in the land. Simply leaving things to nature as has been the case for centuries is not where this now booming national industry remains.

Italian wine names, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other important factors are regulated by law. Similar to the French appellation categorisation.

DOC name and place/origin controlled - ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata’

DOCG name and place/origin controlled and guaranteed. Required to include a status label on the bottle neck: pink for red wines and green for white wines. Prior to the 1980’s just a handful but here we are now four decades later and Italy recognises around 75 DOCG classifications.

ITG A late comer into the labelling world only being introduced in the the early 90’s. The lowest of the three rankings, the ITG does not follow the traditional methods of winemaking and for this it is classed not as a DOC or DOCG as to receive these classifications strict grape usage must be adhered to. The ITG ’Indicazione Geografica Tipica’ or ‘wine typical of a region’ are a classification above the VdT however.

VdT Everyday Table Wine or Vino da Tavola

NV Vintage not shown on label. A non-vintage wine is created by blending together a number wines from different vintages

The Sicilian wine revolution has been one of the most noticeable in Italy. Sommelier training courses increasing in number as fast as the prices of wine. Sicily, being nearer Africa than Rome boasts its own charming way of life setting it apart from the stricter and more more organised business functions of the mainland, the north specifically. Sicilian business day to day life is constantly influenced by the exhausting effects of the sun - great for producing a vast array of grapes but not so for the endless legalities of producing bottling and labelling regulations in accordance with the recent strict Italian laws.

Ancient viticulture techniques are nothing new to wine making but the modernisation in viticulture techniques, biodynamic and temperature moderated fermentation has taken Sicilian wine production to the next level.

Romantic vineyard scenes and wine production can still be found but Sicily now a producer of billions of litres of wine today, doubling its production and seriousness in the world of Italian wine in just a half century. Sicily as a region is one of the highest ranking wine producers in the entire country.

Sicilian DOCG

The only Sicilian to join the mainland wines is the Cerasulo di Vittoria. An elegant dry, red, a blend of two varieties of grape - the Nero d’Avola and Frappato. This wine originates in the commune of Vittoria and is produced in Caltinissetta, Ragusa and Catania

Passito Wines: Dessert and Aperitivo wines are common places Sicily, boasting the Marsala and Moscato produced by some distinguished wineries on the Sicilian islands of Pantelleria and Lipari. Marsala a fortified wine, sweet, demi-sec or dry from the west of Sicily. Moscato di Pantelleria DOC a producer on the island of Pantelleria, where still and sparkling, passito and liquoroso versions are produced.

The moscato, a sweet white wine made from the Muscat of Alexandria grape or ‘Zabibo’ as it is know in Sicily meaning ‘raisin’ in Arabic. The name Marsala comes from the Arab Marsah-el-Allah, or ‘Port of Allah’, Sicily invaded and influenced by the Muslims in so many ways. The Sicilian Marsala being listed as one of the world’s most popular fortified wines.


Fine - aged for a minimum of one year

Marsala Superiore - a minimum of two years ageing

Marsala Superiore Riserva - a minimum ageing of three years

Marsala Vergine or Solera - - five years ageing

Vergine Stravecchio Riserva - a minimum ageing period of 10 years - at least 18% alc./vol

The Etna volcanic area to the north east of Sicily is a DOC zone. Volcanic mineralised soil, endless sunshine and thousands of feet above sea level allows this region to churn out world renowned wines from its eastern slope vineyards. The Etna Rosso (red) and Bianco (white) grapes are grown here.

Wine tours are in abundance on Month Etna. Click here for more details

Reading wine labels

An Italian wine label will usually include certain information: the name of the winery, perhaps also the name of the vineyard that produced the grapes, the vintage (the year in which the wine was made), and either an abbreviation (e.g., DOC, DOCG) or a phrase (Vino da Tavola/ Everyday table wine) that indicates a category.

Here are some of the wines that can be found on the menu at the Hotel Charme Algila in Ortgia, Sicily. Updated inline with biannual menu updates. Please ask your waiter for more details when you visit our restaurant set to reopen from September 2021.

For more information and booking your hotel in Sicily please visit our hotel web or contact us:

Hotel Algila 4 Star Superior

93 Via Vittorio Veneto I-96100 Siracusa, Italy Phone (Italy) +39 0931 465186


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