Friday, February 23, 2024

Understanding Italy's Wine Designations from VdP, IGT, DOC to DOCG

Although I love highlighting Italy’s indigenous grapes, wine regions and producers I think it’s also good to take a step back from time to time and highlight some of the basics in understanding Italian wine 

Italy is home to over 2,000 native grape varieties with about 400-500 of them being actively being commercially producedIt’s always a challenge to understand wine labels, especially ones that you’re not too familiar with when it comes to the land, the grapes nor the language. Let’s break down one of those barriers today in understanding the 4 classifications or designations of Italian wine, VdT, IGT, DOC and DOCG. 

Italian wine classifications
Sourced from Federdoc

What do Italy's wine classifications mean? 

It’s important when looking at wine labels to understand the many different elements listed on the label that will help you understand more about what is in the bottleOne of main components of understanding the Italian wine labels is understanding where the wine is from and what grapes were used in producing the wineMuch of this can be understood depending on which Italian designation is listed that will help provide more information. 

The Italian wine classification system was modeled after France’s AOC wine classification systemWith each designation listed it helps the consumer to have certain expectations about the quality within the bottleDepending on the classification you will understand more about the grapes permitted, the alcohol level, the territory, aging requirements, yields and the production methods in which the wine was madeNot every designation requires all of these elements, but the higher up the pyramid the wine climbs, the stricter the regulations. 

Understanding the differences between VdT, IGT, DOC and DOCG 

As previously mentioned, Italy has 4 wine classifications: 

  • VdT – previously known as vino da tavola  
  •  IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica 
  •  DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata 
  •  DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita 

Let’s take a further look at each of the Italian wine classificatins. 

Vino da Tavola – VdT wines 

The VdT, or vino da tavola, classification is a catch all for all the Italian wines that don’t qualify into the other classificationsThe wines produced in this category can come from anywhere within Italy so they don’t represent a particular identity of a winemaking regionIt’s your basic table wine and is considered the lowest quality level when we look at the overall pyramid of Italy wine designations. 

IGT wines 

The next step up in quality would be the IGT winesAlthough, you can’t judge all these wines by their designation onlySome of Italy’s top fine wines including Tignanello are actually IGT winesThe reason for this is because some wine producers want flexibility to experiment and make wines the way they want to make themUnfortunately, with such strict regulations the higher you climb in the Italian wine pyramid of classifications it doesn’t allow some of these producers to make wines in such a way.   

The IGT designation was created in 1992 with over 120 IGT classifications found throughout ItalyToday you may also see these wines labelled PGI, Protected Geographical IndicationTypically, IGT wines will come from a region or particular area within the region that you will find on the label, but on a broader scale.   

Understanding what an IGT Italian wine is
As you'll see this particular wine is in the Colline Teatine of Abruzzo
DOC wines 

The DOC designation was created in 1963Can you guess what was the first DOC Italian wine createdIf you’re familiar with the medieval tower filled town of San Gimignano in Tuscany and have tried their white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, then you tasted Italy’s first DOC granted wineToday there are over 330 DOC Italian wines.   

These wines, along with the wines under the DOCG, must adhere to strict guidelines in comparison to the VdT and IGT designationsTo be labeled as a DOC and DOCG, these wines require certain percentages of grape varieties, aging requirements, alcohol levels, grape yields and specific territories in which the grapes are grown and producedEvery DOC has different requirements so you must look up that particular DOC to understand their regulations. 

What an Italian DOC wine classification is

DOCG wines 

Topping the Italian wine pyramid is the DOCG designationThe wines labeled with the DOCG status are considered the highest quality Italian wines per the name, Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita, where these wines are guaranteed for their quality. To qualify with the DOCG designation the wines must be analyzed and taste tested by the government.   The DOCG wines show a sense of identity for the terroirs in which they grow.    

1st DOCG Italian wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Vernaccia now as a DOCG

Established in 1980, many of Italy’s great Italian wines fall under this category including the first two wine appellations that were granted the Italian DOCG designation, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in the Tuscan wine regionThe appellation must have been a DOC for at least 10 yearsToday there are about 77 DOCGs with the regions of Tuscany, Piedmont and the Veneto leading the pack with the most DOCGs. 

Both the DOC and DOCG wines have a unique label wrapped around the neck of the bottle that contain a serial number from their productionAs of the European reform of 2008 both of these designations fall under the protected class of authenticity, DOP, or Denominazione d’Origine ProtettaYou will also see many authenthic Italian foods with the DOP label that have been certified by the European Union. 

DOC and DOCG similarities in Italian wine

Use these designations as a guide for quality, especially with the DOC and DOCG wines, but understand there may be some hidden gems in the IGT categoryDrink what you like!

Also, in support of Vino Travels, if you plan to purchase wines I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from


Friday, February 9, 2024

Shrimp Scampi Pizza Paired with Masciarelli Montepulciano Rosé

If you haven’t discovered Italy’s many styles of rosé wines what are you waiting for?  If you have yet to jump on the rosé bus then there is no better time like the present.  You can find many Italian rosé wines from northern to southern Italy utilizing a variety of native grapes.  Today’s rosé feature will be based on the Montepulciano grape, Abruzzo’s signature red grape, from Tenuta Agricole Masciarelli.   With Valentine’s Day right around the corner the enticing pink hues and flavor profile of Abruzzo’s rosé will be sure to please yourself or that special loved one in your life.

Montepulciano as a grape in rosé wines

For those of us that are regular rosé drinkers or Italian wine lovers at that, if you’ve had the opportunity to drink rosé in Abruzzo you’ve probably had cerasuolo d’abruzzo.  Although, this wine I’m sharing today doesn’t fall under the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC.  It Is part of the Colline Teatine IGT.  Per wine searcher, the name Teatine is believed to be named after Teate, which was the name for Chieti in Roman times.   The Colline Teatine IGT was created in 1995 and covers the hilly terroir around Chieti.  Here the hills meet the foothills of the Central Appenines as well as the Maiella Mountains.  The cooling breezes from the mountain range along with its close proximity to the Adriatic Sea is what creates ideal conditions with its Mediterranean climate. 

map of Masciarelli in Chieti Abruzzo
Montepulciano not only makes great red wines, but rosé wines as well.  Even though Montepulciano I think really claims it’s home in the Abruzzo region, you can also find Montepulciano produced throughout a number of other regions in Italy.  It tops the charts for Italian grapes produced throughout the country.   The Montepulciano grape has thick skins that creates wines with deep colors and concentration and is part of the reason it does well as a rosé.  This grape needs a long growing season to reach it’s full maturity.  You’ll see a variety of colors in rosé wines made from Montepulciano based on the producer and how long they choose to macerate the skins with the juice, although not much time is really need before it imparts its rich colors and flavors. 

Masciarelli vineyards in Abruzzo

The Wine

I’m not going to dig into the Masciarelli estate much today as I have featured them previously as I shared Montepulciano wines from around Abruzzo .  The 2022 Masciarelli Rosato Colline Teatine IGT that I’m featuring today is made from 85% Montepulciano grapes and up to 15% other red grapes.  Masciarelli has been making this wine along with their Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo since 1981 from the owner, Gianni Masciarelli’s, original 12 acres at his home vineyard.

The free run must is fermented in stainless steel to preserve the freshness in this wine along with it’s acidity.  The grapes are sourced from 3 of Masciarelli’s vineyard sites around the area of Chieti in the Bucchianico, Martino sull Marrucina and Ripa Teatina vineyards mostly made up of calcareous clay. 

The 2022 Masciarelli Rosato Colline Teatine IGT was a beautiful salmon color in the glass.  Fresh on the nose with aromas of wild strawberries.  Simple and delicate on the palate, but refreshing acidity with notes of slightly tart strawberries. 

If you’re looking for an introduction into Italian rosé without dropping too much on a bottle, this is a satisfying and easy drinking wine priced at $15 a bottle.  Plus, it has a screw up for easy accessibility. 

Montepulciano Wine Pairing

After tasting this wine I could see it’s versatility with a variety of dishes, but I chose to make a white pizza of shrimp scampi.  It’s been a long time since I’ve made a white pizza.  As a child I grew up with my mom making pizzas on Friday nights, usually your typical cheese, but as I grew I got to appreciate a white pizza as well. Although, my two young boys looked at me funny when I took this one out of the oven and then proceeded to tell them it had shrimp on it.  They’ll learn.

Shrimp Scampi pairing with 2022 Masciarelli Rosato Colline Teatine IGT

It was rather simple to put together.  I cooked the shrimp first in oil, garlic, butter and salt making sure there was enough use as the sauce in prepping the pizza.  I put the dough into the oven first for about 4-5 minutes before putting the toppings on.   I brushed the garlic butter sauce from cooking the shrimp on top of the pizza with some parsley and topped it with shrimp I chopped up along with mozzarella cheese.  I cooked it an additional 8-10 minutes and it came out perfect!  Plus, the Masciarelli Rosato pairing couldn’t have balanced any better with the flavors in the pizza.  It had a nicely matched body of the wine in comparison with the shrimp scampi pizza and complimentary flavors. 

If you’re looking for casual and easy preparation this Valentine’s Day without skimping on satisfaction this may be the pairing to try.

This month I'm joining the Wine Pairing Weekend group as we chat about rosé wines and suggested pairings.  Follow my fellow wine writer friends as they share a wide variety of pairings.

*This wine were provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.
Importer on the label: Vintus