How many times have you planned to just pop in and out of your local wine shop, until you've gotten inside and been confused reading wine labels? When one takes a walk around a wine shop, things can get quite confusing really fast. While some labels can be fairly straight forward, others might as well be written in another language, and in most times, they are. So what does all of it mean? There is much to discuss when it comes to wine labels, but for now in this article, we will answer and simplify the meaning of AOC, DOC, IGT and IGP. (Learn more in "Wine Labels 101: French Wine.")
Throughout the European Union, there are standards and classifications for certain traditional foods and wines. European countries have created systems in order to preserve tradition, but also ensure quality and protect producers and consumers alike. In France, this system is referred to as Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC in short). In Spain, this system is referred to as Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa), and in Italy, it is called Denominazione di Origine Calificada (DOC). Both AOC and DOC are synonymous. Aside from being the controlling bodies which designate certain products under a specified designation of origin, they also have created a certain hierarchy and ranking for products (food and wine) produced in their country.
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in France
AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) is merely a description given to French wines (or food) to guarantee it was produced in the origin written on the label and produced via specific methods and ingredients that are required by law in that region. However, under this AOC system, there are other categories.
AOC in France also designates wines (and foods, such as cheese) as the highest category and control by which a product was produced. For wines, this category is not given easily, as the wine must follow strict guidelines from the vineyard to its bottle; grape varieties used, alcohol levels, vine age and more. AOC labels for wine in France account for about 53% of its overall wine production. There are other categories which follow that have other guidelines:
Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS)
VDQS It is a little less restrictive than AOC, however, certain qualities like a wine estate's terroir and production methods are considered. These are wines which are made in regions which have yet to be recognized as an AOC.
Vin de Pays (VDP)
VDP wines are specific to their major wine-growing region (not sub-region). There are less restrictions for these wines, which does not mean they are not quality wines. These wines, to some, might offer the winemakers a little more artistic freedom in their production.
Vins Sans Indication Géographique (VSIG)
VSIG is a new classification of wines in France. They are permitted to use "France" on the label, however, they are not permitted to list the specific grapes, vintage or region on the label.
Vin de Table (Table Wine)
These are wines that are from France which list the producers name. The wine may be made from any grape or from any vineyard in the country. This means that, often, you are not sure where the wine comes from as there are no heavy restrictions. This label is often reserved for inexpensive wine and it is rare that Vin de Table is sold outside of France, it directly translates as table wine.
This wraps up France, now we can talk about what DOC means.
Denominación de Origen Calificada DOC in Italy
DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada) falls under the same category as AOC. It is the regulating body of quality and tradition for wines made in Italy (and Spain), but it is also a designation which indicates the second highest quality in the wine labelling hierarchy, based on regional specifications (grapes used for a wine, harvest yields, vineyard management, the method used to make the wine, etc.) and tradition. Denominazione di Origine Calificada Geografica (DOCG) is the highest ranking. (Learn more in "Wine Labels 101: Italian Wines.")
Indicazione Geografica Tipica IGT in Italy
IGT or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, falls under the Italian DOC system and is the third-ranking designation. A few decades ago, it was specifically created for Super Tuscans. These wines, while of world class quality, do not follow the stricter guidelines to have DOC or DOCG (Denominazione di origine Calificada Geografica) status. For Super Tuscans and other wines, this status allows for producers to craft wines with more freedom and creativity. IGT is similar to the French wine label, Vin de Pays.
Indication Géographique Protégée IGP in France
IGP or Indication Géographique Protégée, is a wine classification under the French AOC system and is the lowest-ranking in the country's wine hierarchy. These are typically wines sold under brands, however, they still indicate the wine is from a certain region. The difference in IGP and AOC wines may be that certain traditional guidelines for a higher ranking were not followed; i.e., the use of noble grapes, it may indicate that vineyards or growing seasons were of lesser-desired quality, or unconventional means of production were practiced. It does not always signify that the wine is of lesser quality. (Learn more in "Wine Labels 101: Californian and U.S. Wines.")
So this should clarify some confusing wine jargon on labels for you and it should make your next trip to the wine shop a little easier and even enjoyable. Sometimes just a little knowledge not only raises your appreciation, but also enjoyment.