I saw the news the other day that Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto della Valpolicella had become DOCGs. Like many wine geeks worldwide, I began to try to count all of the DOCGs and list them from memory. Thank goodness for people like Alfonso Cevola, the Italian Wine Guy out in Texas who put a full posting on his lovely blog.
When I saw that Verdicchio di Matelica and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi had made the list earlier this year, I began to think more precisely about what DOCG actually means. Yes, it is quality controlled of a higher standard but does it actually mean the wine is better? I’m not sure. I have begun to see these wines as purely a marketing ploy and the value of the DOCG label, like everything that moves from being a rare commodity to being more common place, somewhat diminished.
I am not casting aspersions on any wine in the list I just think that perhaps there wines aren’t any better qualitatively but are just an expression of territory and tradition. I haven’t fully worked out what I think they should use instead of this labeling but I do think a fuller explanation and perhaps a new category should be created. Something whereby the quality is actually judged and defined in terms of its tasting profile as well not just restricted viticulture and vinification techniques.
Italian wines are quite complicated for even the most expert of wine enthusiasts and of course this system helps to guide people towards choosing one wine over another. That said, I am afraid that DOCG system has lost its shine. Perhaps it always was all about marketing and I just was in denial about it.
It’s the holiday season and it is nice to keep some illusions but in my humble opinion, the list is growing too long and has mutated into something totally different than the original intent of this system. I miss the days of 30 DOCGs when I began the Italian sommelier school in 2000. Every new DOCG was a huge event. No more….