No that wasn’t a sneeze, it was I.G.T. or Indicazione Geografica Tipica: the new wine classification introduced in 1992 as part of a general reorganization of the D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) Italian wine law. I.G.T. was to be a new controlled quality level just below the D.O.C. to create a home for wines that, for many reasons, did not met the D.O.C. requirements, but had regional character.
Predictably, the introduction of the I.G.T. has been a mere sneeze as far as consumers are concerned — and a great example of a bureaucratic shell game.
The creation of I.G.T. was made necessary by the inadequacies of the D.O.C. regulations and by the widespread revolt against them by many famous and politically powerful wine producers. These producers were being forced to give their top wines, often internationally styled ones that did not follow D.O.C. rules, the lowly Vino da Tavola (table wine) designation.
Vino da Tavola had been the catch-all category for everyday wines until the super-Tuscan revolution hit Chianti and Maremma. Famous wines like Le Pergole Torte, Tignanello, and Sassicaia, which did not meet D.O.C. requirements, had to compete internationally against the world’s finest wines with this common name on their labels. To further confuse the matter, the phrase "table wine" in the US is a legal designation set by the government to denote all wines of less than 14.5% alcohol.
The end result is that I.G.T. has basically replaced the Vino da Tavola category for exported wines and does not provide much more of a guarantee of quality than Vino da Tavola did. Aa-choo!
There are oceans of "Veneto I.G.T." wine arriving in the USA now so let’s look at those regulations. The wines can be white, red, or rose produced in lightly sparking or novella (new) style. There are 39 permitted grape varieties and the grapes can come from any of 7 provinces. Pretty demanding requirements, right? So now exceptional wines made by great Veneto producers like Anselmi and Inama still carry the same designation as bulk wines made at the cooperatives. Exactly the same situation as before.
To be fair the I.G.T. regulations are more stringent than those for Vino da Tavola and they do restrict the wine named to be at least of a defined region, while Vino da Tavolo could be produced from wines produced anywhere in Italy — and sometimes Italy seemed to mean the borders of the Roman Empire. However, the reality of the situation is that I.G.T. is a shallow marketing tool: a fancier name for almost the same thing.
I.G.T. wines are basically divided into three groups, all labeled the same: industrial grade, good solid country wines, and hyper-expensive superstars (sometimes they are only hyper-expensive). You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Unfortunately, price is the first giveaway. When you see an I.G.T. wine at $50.00 you have a pretty good idea it is not in the industrial grade category. But sorry, no guarantees.
For anyone unfamiliar with the best estates the best reference point is still the importer or a passionate retailer. For instance, Neil Empson offers Monte Antico, a reliable value in I.G.T. Toscano. What makes this wine reliable is the Empson name on the bottle. This same is true also for a wine like Castel di Salve, Santi Medici, Salento I.G.T. imported by Vin Divino, another very reliable importer. There are many poor Salento I.G.T. and Toscano I.G.T. wines, but when selected by a dedicated importer you have a much better chance of finding a good wine, and a good value.
Italian wine law is bursting at the seams from its own rich diet. Italy is overwhelmed by excellent wines, but they just don’t fit well into the few categories and the constrictions of D.O.C.G., D.O.C. and I.G.T.