The law founding the Denominazione di Origine system, No. 930 enacted in 1963, established a DOCG category among the other appellations. The "G" in Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita means "Guaranteed."
A new law adopted in 1992, No.164, retained that class of wines and ranked them at a level superior to the other DOC beverages in the pyramid of classification. The point of the change was to establish a presumption of qualitative superiority, beginning with special premium characteristics that should be recognized and a consolidated national and international reputation. The terms used are so relative that it is difficult at times to establish their real significance. But everyone is agreed that the operations stipulated by the DOC regulations, which require quality controls for every shipment, whether in terms of chemical or sensory analysis, and end with the granting of a special numbered seal for each bottle, are so detailed and comprehensive that the costs of these wines must necessarily be fairly high. Because they are extremely complicated, the procedures are difficult to apply and always involve increased expenditure. The reduction of yields produced by adherence to the rules is also costly.
The DOCG measures insure that each bottle is counted, providing an exact me asure of produc tion , while the application to each of a special seal makes it difficult to evade the law's requirements. In fact, the DOCG rules prove their worth in all cases in which audit procedures show the precise ratio of bottles to output of grapes and wine. It is without doubt a costly procedure, adapted only to expensive wines.
However, admittance to the DOCG category does not serve to position the production of a determined wine-growing area at a higher level on the market. All of the experience accumulated in the field, which by now is substantial, indicates that, if wines lack quality or image, their appeal to the consumer will remain the same whether they are DOC or DOCG products. It is an error to seek reclassification to the DOCG level of a given wine that is linked in consumers'minds with a certain image and price with the hope of elevating its standing and securing a higher price. The perccived quality and image remain the same, while the complications and the cost of complying with the requirements will become a burden on the production system and create problems on the market. In no case has the DOCG helped sales.
Therefore, the desire to insert all or part of the production of certain areas in this category is misdirected and irrational. There is no question that costs will be heavier, while there is no assurance that higher prices can be requested. There are already examples of negative results from assignment of the DOCG to areas that were too extensive or to wines that lacked adequate images or prices. In other cases, however, like that of Asti Spumante, the DOCG has functioned well in providing a strict acccunting of the number of bottles produced and, therefore, the amount of wine that undergoes secondary fermentation. It is true that this wine does not command a high price but, at the same time, efficient organization made possible by the substantial industrialization of production has permitted absorption of most of the increased costs.
To avoid pointless illusions and establish transparent rules, the National DOC Committee has adopted special standards that should be met by all wines for which admittance to the DOCG category is sought. Obviously, they supplement the law's requirements that the wines be of premium value and have nationwide and international reputations. Among the limits imposed by the Committoe are the following: production of grapes per hectare is set at only 80 quintals (3 56 tons an acre) for red wines and 100 quintals (4.45 tons) for whites and a yield in wine of 70% for reds and 65% for whites, in addition to a higher minimum natural alcohol level, which is intended to encourage producers to concentrate on quality in the vineyard.
In setting standards for the assignment of the DOCG, the Committee is acting in the interest of both producers and consumers.
For many historic wines of high quality, which meet all the requirements, offer the necessary quality and command adequate prices, the DOCG system functions admirably, providing an accounting of every bottle produced.