What’s in a label? Certified quality and authenticity

Over the past few years, consumers’ choices have confirmed that a product’s quality and wholesomeness are rewarded. In fact, the hallmark of craftsmanship is driving new market niches that consist of boutique growers and wineries.

Food & wine are constantly in the media nowadays, yet the very abundance of material does not always ensure proper understanding of the products. Labels do display some information, but this is not always as complete as the discerning gourmet would wish. Relying on a selection of small, quality-driven estates that have been cherry-picked by Ventuno for inclusion in our Experience Boxes fast-tracks consumers to certified food & wine products that guarantee the finest standards on palate and well-being.

Certification, clarified

Let’s shed some light on those household acronyms whose precise meaning may not always be quite clear:

IGT: Indicazione Geografica Tipica, refers to ample geographical areas and might be considered a “blanket” denomination that does not go into as much detail, regulations-wise, as DOC or DOCG. However, this is by no means a reflection on the wines’ quality, so much so that two of the most famous and superior Italian wines, Sassicaia (red) and Vintage Tunina (white) respectively started off as an IGT and remain an IGT to this day. This is because some outstanding producers deliberately choose to do without the “straitjacket” of DOC/G regulations to pursue the highest possible quality, doing things their way. The IGT denomination may be flanked by mention of the grape variety, and is considered to be roughly equivalent to the French vin de pays designation.

IGP: Indicazione Geografica Protetta, in practice, is EU-speak for IGT, based on Council Regulation (EC) No. 510/2006 of March 20th, 2006. It is also applied to food, and certifies that a certain product comes from a specified geographical area and is characterized by certain quality features.

DOC: Denominazione di Origine Controllata, roughly equivalent to the French Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), applies to wines that correspond to very specific quality standards and organoleptic characteristics, produced within the specified area. Regulations are detailed and stringent, specifying grape varieties allowed with the respective percentages, as well as harvest yields, minimum aging in wood and bottle, min. alcohol content etc.

DOCG: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the tip of the pyramid, classification-wise, awarded to particularly historic wines and subject to especially severe regulations and quality control, both in the lab and in the tasting room, by a panel of experts. It is mandatory that DOCG wines are not sold in containers larger than 5 liters. The denomination was originally created as an upgrade of the DOC, and the four original DOCGs were assigned in 1980: Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Barolo (July), then Barbaresco, three months later. Since then, many others joined their ranks; all must have been DOC for at least 10 years and have been considered particularly fine for as long. DOCG bottles bear a numbered government seal that prevents manipulation of the wine and guarantees (as in the G of “garantita”) their origin and quality.

DOP: Denominazione di Origine Protetta is the official EU designation that corresponds to DOC, like IGT/IGP. Some producers label their wines with the EU acronym, others prefer to maintain the Italian system. DOP not only refers to wines but to certain food products, and must comply with strict regulations in terms of geographical origin, manufacturing procedure, history and traditional methods.

The organic market is growing – and helping the planet

Organic food & wine products are in a class of their own, and have met with increasing demand over the past few years. In a scenario where sustainability is gaining ground, the market for organic specialties is expanding.

On the European scene, Italy ranks first in the number of organic growers, followed by France and Germany. Sicily, Apulia, Calabria and Emilia-Romagna lead the way in organic cultivation within the country. According to ISMEA estimates, 51% of organic product consumers choose it “because it’s wholesome and good for you”; the rest claim that it is safer and better, as well as more sustainable for the environment.
On the one hand, organic certification is part of a wider family of products that are regulated by the European Community – a family comprising IGP and DOP. On the other, we need to distinguish the various categories. Whatever the denomination, a product can only be certified as organic if it is GMO-free and has not been grown with the aid of artificial chemicals; only naturally occurring substances are allowed and the focus is on managing insects rather than eliminating them. A fine DOC or DOCG wine is not necessarily also organic, and a fine organic wine is not necessarily DOC or DOCG.

Wine & Food Tourism: the 2020 Report

Wine & food tourism in Italy has shown a consistently positive trend that reflects the perceived quality and authenticity of Italian specialties. A growing number of foreigners are drawn to these shores out of interest for both their cultural and their culinary heritage. The two go hand in hand and are instrumental in characterizing Italy’s regional and national identity, its image, spirit and history.

The 2020 Report on Italian Wine & Food Tourism clearly highlights tourists’ growing interest in the culinary and enological heritage of western countries, and Italy in particular. Gourmet tourists from China and Mexico have shown an especially steep rise since 2016: +12% and +10% respectively. Generation-wise, millennials form the avant-garde of this trend, though Generation Z appears to be set to become the next “super foodies”, frequent travelers who are extremely interested in gourmet culture.

Not to mention the fact that Italy is mostly viewed through the lens of fine wine & food world-wide: between November 2019 and January 2020, the trending topics for net surfers in the US, China, France, Spain, Germany and the UK were such delish specialties as pizza, arancini, ossobuco, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano; with regard to enology, sparkling wines, wines from Alto Adige and Chianti (Semrush data).

All of the quality and authenticity of Italy’s plethora of wine & food specialties can be found in our Ventuno Experience Boxes, veritable celebrations of Italian terroir and heritage. The Boxes’ contents exclusively hail from certified crops, IGP, DOC and DOCG appellations, boutique estates and master craftsmanship. Each is a labor of love that testifies to Ventuno’s profound connection with its homeland, now available internationally.

Anyone lucky enough to have tasted the plummy, spicy beauty of a Nero di Troia Puglia IGP under the Puglian sky, will wish to replicate the feelings and flavors savored during their Apulian holiday. And if you need a little Sicilian sunshine of a cold winter evening, the scrumptious, organic pesto from Pantelleria will brighten up your palate with a dose of “pantesco” brio, to be complemented with a Diva Gold beer and its frothy sparkle.

Do try any of the numerous certified specialties in one of our gourmet offerings, then grab our VR Viewer to finish off your sensory experience by exploring the Italian landscape!

Food Farming Certifications: Try our products