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


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