To the new wine lover, the world of Italian wine can seem intimidating.
There’s just so much information to unpack. You have hundreds of varieties of wine and thousands of different vintages. Each producer has something a little different to offer too. Plus, there’s all of the information about types of grape, the terroir, and so much more.
Wouldn’t it be nice if things were a little simpler?
Specifically, wouldn’t it be nice if you could have an indication of a wine’s quality before you buy it?
Instead of having to spend ages researching a bottle, you’d like to be able to look at the label and get an idea of what you have in store.
There is a way to determine that a wine’s of good quality: the Designation
Every wine produced in Italy receives a classification. The wines that carry the DOC and DOCG labels are the wines to look out for.
These wines have met a number of strict criteria, which include being made in a certain region and meeting a set quality standard. In some cases, the wine also has to undergo a taste test before it can achieve the label.
It’s no wonder that Italians prefer DOC wines. Here, we’re going to look at a few reasons why.
But first, here’s an important note…
Non-DOC Does Not Mean Bad
We may have implied that a wine that doesn’t carry the DOC label is a bad wine.
That’s not the case. In fact, non-DOC wines are often some of the most innovative available. You need only look at Tignanello and the other Super Tuscans of the 1970s to see that. These wines eschewed traditional Chianti production methods and ended up being remarkable.
Yet they still carry the IGT label.
The point is that if a wine isn’t DOC, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring. The odds are that the wine has plenty of good features. You just may need to do a little extra research before making your choice.
Now, let’s look at the reasons why Italians prefer DOC wines.
Reason #1 – A Clear Identity
As mentioned above, the region that a wine comes from is extremely important in the Italian wine industry. Each region has different terroir and has different grapes that are native to it. As a result, each region also has its own distinct flavours and essences that carry over into its wine.
Interestingly, the most common example used here isn’t even Italian. We all know that no sparkling wine can be called Champagne unless it comes from the region of the same name.
The same goes for a DOC Italian wine. The wine cannot carry the DOC label unless it comes from the correct region and uses the correct grapes. Often, the DOC also mandates the concentration of each grape in the wine.
All of this serves to lend DOC wines a clear identity. Drinkers know exactly what they’re getting, even if they choose to drink a wine from another producer. Sure, they may be some differences. But they know the wine meets set quality standards and has a clear and traceable identity.
That’s also important in a world where wine counterfeiting is such an issue. That sense of identity also makes it easier to research a DOC wine and ensure it comes from the people it’s supposed to come from.
Simply put, the DOC classification ensures that Italian wines all maintain their individual qualities.
Reason #2 – A Quality Indicator
Also as mentioned, Italian wines need to meet certain quality standards to achieve the DOC classification.
This extends beyond the grapes used in production. A DOC wine is also produced under carefully regulated conditions. There may even be specific production methods enforced to ensure the quality of the wine.
All of these measures combine to offer a sense of consistency that carries over between all wines of a single DOC classification. You know that you’re getting good quality, regardless of the producer. Yet, the DOC regulations are also open enough for producers to imbue their own talents into the wine, which means there’s also plenty of variety.
Simply put, you’re not really taking a risk on a DOC wine when it comes to quality within the wine’s classification. You may not like the wine. But that’s down to personal taste. Italians choose DOC wines because they know they meet set standards.
Reason #3 – DOC Helps Maintain Traditional Techniques
Technology constantly marches forward and it’s important that the Italian wine industry embraces new ideas and techniques.
However, it’s also important that the industry doesn’t forget about the techniques of the past. After all, it’s these older techniques that built the industry into what it is today. Part of the allure of Italian wine is the history that’s deeply ingrained into it.
It’s possible that the march of technology could lead to some of that history disappearing.
The DOC plays an important role in terms of maintaining the traditional aspect of Italian wine. They ensure that producers retain respect for the old methods. Plus, they help the wines retain what made them special enough to become renowned in the first place.
In fact, the Italian Government specifically created the DOC classifications with tradition in mind. With the United States and other territories developing their wine industries, the government felt it important to ensure that Italian wines stood out for their quality, originality, and history. The DOC classification ensures that’s the case.
The Final Word
The simple fact is that the DOC classification is a simple marker of quality than any wine lover should look for when buying Italian wine. It shows you that the wine comes from the region it’s supposed to and that it’s been made to a certain standard.
Again, this doesn’t mean that non-DOC wines aren’t worth exploring. In fact, some extremely creative and interesting wines don’t carry the DOC classification.
However, going for DOC is a safe option if you’re unsure about what to buy. So next time you’re standing at the market with a row of Pinot Noir bottles in front of you, look for the DOC markings on the label to see which ones stand out.