For this series of my blog, I am traveling from Lucca to Rome, along the Via Francigena, which is a pilgrimage that stretches from Canterbury, England to Rome, as it crosses a smidge of England, France, Switzerland, and from the alps in Italy all the way to Rome. I walked in the northern part of Italy last fall, and continue the southern part now in March/April. Along the way, as I travel with my friend and colleague, Ron Mills, we take breaks to try out local wines and food, and I do an occasional post on wine. My goal is to do a fair amount of walking, try as much local wine as possible, and to do just enough blogging that I feel good about blogging, but not so much that I don’t feel good about blogging too much.
Standards of wine in Italy
If you have had any wine education, travelled a bit, or at least read an Italian wine label and been befuddled by the verbiage, you know that there are different classifications of wine  in Italy. Just as there are different systems, hoping to convey different information, give aspirations to levels of quality, Italy has classifications that do the same. The are from highest to lowest in quality:
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC),  Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), and Vino da Tavola (VdT). These are also represented in the following graphic:

In short, the top two categories come with a set of regulations that guarantee a certain set of standards, which may include grape percentages, wine-making techniques, oak requirements, etc. Below this are IGT, which may have less stringent requirements, but may be indicative of protections given to labeling in a given geographical area. Below this is VdT, or table wine, or in the incredibly succinct and to the point European Union language on the left  “it’s wine.”
Protections and appellations go back centuries in Europe, and there are different ways to look at who did what first. If you go back to the 15th century, the Duke of Burgundy kick the poor Gamay grape out of the region, deeming it an inferior grape to Pinot Noir. The Chianti region in Tuscany, Italy set out delimitations in 1716, Hungary’s Tokaj-Hegyalja laid out the first classification system in 1730, and the third oldest controlled appellation was decreed for port, in Portugal’s Douro region in 1756. In 1935, France faced a degradation of the quality of its wine, and it produced a system that is often used as a model for other countries, the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). This system guarantees a the name of an agricultural product within a certain geographical area, that may include protections around the biological, physical and cultural ways of bringing that product into existence (i.e. this is not just for wine). With considerable variation, both in application and even rigor, this has been used a model from the 1930s to present, in wine.
In sociology, there are several
Dead White Guys who are suggested to have started the field, including Marx, Weber, and Durkheim. The fourth, unsung Beatle/Sociologist is a guy named Georg Simmel, who focused more the interaction at the micro level of sociology, and influenced some of the early sociology department in the United States. Simmel talk about the idea that all behaviors have a Form, and a Content, and that the relationship between them is a dialectic. Overarching forms last over time, but the content can vary, sometimes leading to microscopic changes that with the passage of time, influence the form, and so on and so forth.
We often make adjustments to perceptions in what we think good wine should be, but when these become too stringent, or are perceived to not lead to the ability to create wine that is excellent, people may choose to ignore the rules. Two of the very best wines we’ve had are listed as “table wine,” or as the EU puts it… “wine.” Now it is hip to look for VdT or “Vino” designations, to find those hidden gems, because the standards of some DOCG and DOC wines seem to be legislating “the way the DOCG/DOC wine should taste,” rather than “how do we make the best wine in a given year?”