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IGT and DOC divide Italian wine world

The Italian wine world is split over the future of DOC and IGT designations.

Among the country’s most respected winemakers, some claim IGT is the only way forward for Italian wine. Others say it dilutes the purity of terroir.

IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) designations allow foreign grape varieties to be added. It is used most famously in Tuscany with the addition of French varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to Chianti Classico, creating the Supertuscans. It is now in every Italian region except Piedmont.

IGT played a vital part in the renaissance of Italian wines in the 1980s and 90s, but it has now ‘exhausted [its] role as a catalyst for change,’ journalist Richard Baudains argues in Decanter magazine’s Italy supplement, out on 3 January.

And he is not alone. Luminaries such as Piero Palmucci of Montalcino’s Poggio di Sotto are outspoken in their support of stringent DOC (Denominazione Origine Controllata) regulations against the freedom of IGT.

‘We should focus on Brunello rather than on wines that can be made anywhere,’ he told Decanter. ’Sangiovese reaches a level of quality here which has not been matched in other parts of Italy or abroad.’

According to others, price is an issue. ‘[IGT wines] suffer from an “overpriced” tag,’ Chris Loveday of UK importer Vinum says.

Terroir is the crux of the argument. While DOC supporters claim IGT wines deny terroir by allowing foreign grapes in the mix, IGT’s fans – winemakers like Riccardo Cotarella, Stefano Chioccioli of Fanti and Villa Cafaggio, and Carlo Ferrini of Castello di Brolio and Fonterutoli – claim the opposite.

‘You need to have more freedom than the DOC regulations give you,’ Ferrini says, and Chioccioli suggests allowing outside varietals increases the expression of terroir: ‘It’s now possible to produce the best possible wines.’

Adding to the tension is the accusation that IGT supporters are betraying their heritage.

‘It simply doesn’t make sense to imitate New World wines make with international grapes like the rest of the world,’ Umbria’s Marco Caprai says.

Not so, counters Cotarella. Whatever the grape variety, the land will show itself. ‘Terroir is stronger than any factor.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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