At its core the DOC is simply the regulatory body for Italian wines. The initials stand for Denominazione di origine controllata and the organisations purpose is to ensure that all wine production in Italy is regulated to ensure that consumers only receive the absolute best Italian wines for their consumption. It was set up in 1963 and has been to go to guide for Italian wine standards ever since.
The organisation aims to enforce these standards of quality through a variety of methods. Modelled on a similar system set up in France, the DOC uses standards based on the area in which a wine is produced, the blends of grapes that go into each type of wine the and production methods used to decided what classification a wine receives.
Because of this, all major wine distributors aim to produce their drinks to the quality guidelines set out by the organisation. Said guidelines ensure a level of quality in production and provides the customer with an increased level of confidence that the wine they have purchased is one of the best that the country has to offer.
DO, DOC and DOCG. What does it all mean?
Anybody who is already aware of the organisation may also be aware that wines can receive a number of classifications based on the DOC initials. What many may not know is exactly what these classifications stand for and how they differ from each other when it comes to determining the quality of a wine and how it differs from an equivalent variety that bears different initials.
In actual fact that differences are actually fairly simple to comprehend. Each use of the initials simply denotes the level to which the wine has been tested by the organisation and can be explained as follows:
The DO designation stands for Denominazione di Origine, which in English essentially means that the wine has been given a designation of origin. This is very rarely used, as the wide majority of wines under the DOC labels will have either a DOC or DOCG designation. All the DO designations symbolises is the fact that the organisation is aware of the wine’s point of origin but will have done little in the way of determining its quality.
Perhaps the most commonly known of the three designations, DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which means that the wine has a controlled destination of origin. Any wine that sports this designation will come from a region that has been allowed to produce the wine as per the DOC regulations and will have used grape blends in accordance with the guidelines set out buy the organisation. The designation is much the same as DOCG, outside of one crucial difference.
The DOCG designation is essentially the Holy Grail for wine producers who wish to receive a classification from the organisation. DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, which means that the organisation has personally guaranteed that the wine has a controlled designation of origin. The need for this additional label came about as many people began to complain that DOC was too regularly used, necessitating a label that could be more restrictive. With the DOCG label, consumers know that the wine has been tested thoroughly by the organisation itself and is thus absolutely guaranteed to match up to the quality standards that they have laid out.
Furthermore, this tasting is carried out by Government licensed personnel and the bottles themselves will be given a special seal with the designation to ensure that the wine can’t be tampered with after it has received classification.
Opposition to the DOC
Though the DOC classifications are a desirable thing on a general level, some consternation has been caused by the restrictions that the organisation places on the production methods of various types of wines. This is exacerbated by the fact that any wines that break those regulations receive the vino da tavola label from the company. This label is the lowest possible designation that the organisation provides and will be given to any wine that breaks the rules, regardless of the actual quality of the drink.
Perhaps the most notably rebellion against these sorts of practices was the emergence of the Super Tuscans in the 1970s. A group of winemakers, with the Antinori family perhaps taking the fore, began to produce Chiantis that did not meet the requirements laid out by the DOC exactly.
Because of this the wines were given the vino da tavola classification, however the Italian public embraced them with open arms. Thanks to a focus on quality and taste over rigidly sticking to the rules, the Super Tuscans proved that it was possible to produce a great wine outside of the official designations and many will argue that some of the best Italian wines were made during this period.
It signalled something of a change in the DOC as well. The success of the Super Tuscans led to the organisation making changes to incorporate many of the new wines under its banner and it has, in the whole, taken a slightly more progressive stance in the years that have followed.
The DOC brand today
Today the DOC brands and designations are as important to the winemaking industry as they have ever been. With a classification from the organisation a consumer can be safe in the knowledge that the wine has been tested and reaches regulations, while the more progressive attitudes adopted by the organisation in recent years also ensures that Italian wine producers have a little bit more freedom to experiment and come up with new drinks that will delight their audience.
For their part the DOC aims simply to increase consumer confidence in the production methods used for Italian wines and also ensure that the traditions and qualities of old are maintained and modernised wherever needed to ensure the continued creation and success of some of the blends that have made the Italian wine industry one of the absolute best in the world.