When you first start your journey through the wonderful world of Italian wine, one of the many things that you must make an effort to understand is the DOC label that many of the best vintages carry and what that represents to you as a consumer.
DOC, which stands for Denominazione di origine controllata, refers to the organization that was set up in Italy to essentially provide quality control for the wines produced by the country. They check everything from the vineyards through to the area of origin and also keep a close eye on how the grapes in each bottle of wine produced by the country are used in an effort to maintain traditional standards.
As such, a DOC or DOCG label on a bottle of wine is a true mark of quality that many people refer to when they aren’t sure about whether or not a vintage is right for them. Here we will take a look at some of the things the label means to both producers and consumers in a little more detail, so that you fully understand why it is a good idea to try to buy DOC wine whenever you have the opportunity.
Protected By Law
The main thing to understand about the DOC label is that wines cannot carry it unless they meet the specific quality standards that have been put forth by the organization. Attempting to pass a wine off as DOC when it is not is a punishable offence for producers and very few have the gall to attempt it, preferring to use the IGT label that lets consumers know that their wine offers something a little different to what you might expect from the region.
In order to carry the DOC label, a wine must meet the standards created by the organization in terms of the area where it was produced, the composition of the wine in terms of percentages of grapes used and essentially how closely it sticks to tradition. By buying a wine that carries a legitimate DOC or DOCG label, you can usually be assured that it meets a certain level of quality that usually means you won’t regret the purchase.
It Is A Product Of Italy
The DOC is an Italian organization and no wines that are produced outside of the country are allowed to carry it. As such, if you see a wine that claims to be DOC but has actually been produced somewhere other than Italy, this is a good indicator that the wine is of low quality or is a fraudulent attempt to recreate a traditional Italian wine.
Pay special attention to the label and research relevant details. Make sure that the DOC mark on the wine relates to the relevant area of production and try to confirm that the recipe matches that provided by the organization. On a general level though, if you buy a wine that has either the DOC or DOCG mark of approval, you can be assure that you are purchasing a genuine Italian wine that is of a high quality.
The Methods Are Defined
Another thing that separates DOC wines from others produced in Italy is that they are produced using methods that are defined by the organization. While some argue that this leaves little room for innovation, it does mean that traditional means of production are maintained. As such, if you find a particular type of wine is to your fancy, such as Chianti, looking for the DOC label will let you know that Chiantis produced by other winemakers have used the correct methods and thus should offer a similar level of quality to previously produced vintages.
A quick note that is important to consider is the fact that an IGT label does not necessarily mean that a wine is of poor quality. All this tells you is that it was produced using methods that differ from those outlined by the DOC. As such, a little bit of research will help you to determine if an IGT wine is worth your time, whereas just seeing the DOC label should tell you that it is. Finally, there are occasions where the guidelines that are put in place by the DOC in terms of production methods can be changed, most notably in the case of the Super Tuscans that began emerging in the 1970s and 80s.
A Word About DOCG
The DOCG label denotes a product that is o the absolute highest quality. In addition to meeting all of the conditions required in order to be recognized as a DOC product, a DOCG wine will also have been analysed and independently tasted by government licensed officials in order to verify that it meets the quality standards that it needs to attain in order to gain the label in the first place.
As such, it can be argued that wines carrying the DOCG label stand as the highest quality products that have come from Italy. Of course, this level of quality also comes hand-in-hand with larger prices in many cases. Remember that you don’t need to purchase DOCG to find quality, but you will practically be guaranteed to receive it if you make the decision to go this route.
There are literally hundreds of DOC wines produced in Italy, with the current count standing at a little below 330. This handy Wikipedia link will allow you to read about each one in more detail, which in turn will ensure that you don’t get caught out by producers trying to pass one type of wine off as something else.
Remember that each DOC wine represents something a little bit different, mostly due to the fact that each wine region that has received the designation uses different techniques and has land that offers the wines unique properties. Many wine lovers enjoy experimenting by trying wines from each of the DOC areas, which may be a worthwhile use of your time if you really want to get to grips with everything that the Italian wine industry has to offer.