I just bought an Italian wine designated DOP. What happened to DOC and DOCG?

By / Magazine / May 10th, 2017 / 9

I feel your pain. It’s just what the wine world needs: another acronym. Though this time around the inspiration hasn’t come from wine industry bureaucrats, it’s a mandate of the European Union in an attempt to standardize the labeling of locally produced agricultural products (not just wine) deemed unique to their geographic location, made using traditional methods and representing the highest quality in their category.

In 2011, the EU put into play the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) accreditation, which are basically three letters that cover what I just mentioned in the last paragraph. Now here’s where things get fun. Since Italians speak Italian, their version of PDO became DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). Just to add a few more letters to the conversation, the French refer to it as AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée).

No matter how the letters are shuffled, the EU’s PDO was designed to supersede the current wine classifications of each of its membership. While no one loves regulation better than Italy, changing their multi-tiered system for a singular one didn’t sit well with many wineries, especially those that call areas with the coveted DOCG recognition home.

Prior to the EU’s update, the hierarchy of Italian winemaking had two levels, DOC (Denominazione Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita). Without getting into too many gory (i.e. boring) details, both recognized the originality of certain areas, set up rules for winemakers to abide by and, in the case of DOCG, added a liquid review to ensure the wines were up to snuff.

There are 329 DOCs, but only 74 DOCGs. Imagine you’re a winery in a DOCG and some EU body tells you to change your designation to DOP and lump yourself into one big bucket with all the other DOCGs and DOCs. In the collective mind of the DOCGers, it was like winning an Oscar but having to tell everyone it’s a Golden Globe.

Since all of Europe is on stream with DOP (and presumably understands it) there is, from a marketing standpoint, some cachet for wineries to jump ship and assimilate. Most are dragging their feet, waiting to see what happens in 2020 when the EU revisits mandatory adoption.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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