The wines in Italy are designated much like the wines of France. Specific regulations are followed in order to be named in a designation. These designations can help land you a good bottle; however, they don’t always guarantee a good one. As a matter of fact, surprisingly, many wines with lesser designations are just as good, if not better, as some of the ones with the more controlled regulations.
VdT is wine classified as table wine but that’s about it. It can be made of any grape(s), grown in any area of Italy and is often sold as bulk or blending wine. Many of the house wines in restaurants are of this designation. Although they don’t carry an illustrious designation, some of these wines are the perfect compliment to casual, al fresco dining in a scenic, little village. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, as some “Super Tuscans” are classified as VdT (more on Super Tuscans later).
IGT is wine classified as having been grown in the appropriate geographic location but other than that, no specific regulation is required. These wines encompass a large playing field and can be some of the best. In Italy, they are plentiful in enotecas, restaurants, and grocery stores.
DOC is wine classified as having followed the appropriate guidelines for growing region, varietal, production formula, and aging. Wines that fall under this designation go through rigorous tasting from a committee for every production year before they can be certified. Many of these wines are excellent; however, when you see this designation, it does not necessarily assure exceptional wine.
DOCG specifies the same as the DOC but, as mentioned above, the “G” stands for “garantita” (or guaranteed). This designation is usually set aside for the more historic wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Barbaresco, Chianti, etc. and is considered more strictly regulated.
Sources: Joseph Bastianich & David Lynch, Vino Italiano. The Regional Wines Of Italy, (New York, New York, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2002); Robert M. Parker, Jr., Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide, 7th Edition, (New York, New York, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2008); Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, The World Atlas Of Wine, (London, England, Octopus Publishing Group, 2007)
photo by Joe Overstreet