I’ve dropped the acronyms DOC and DOCG a few times here. As many of you will know, DOC is a quality assurance label in Italy. It stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, literally: Controlled Designation of Origin. It’s a key label to know about when buying Italian wines.
In the few Italian towns where German is the official language it’s not DOC, but Kontrollierte Ursprungsbezeichnung, which is kind of fun— snap a photo for me if you see one outside of Italy! Basically DOC, stands for tradition, because it indicates that a wine is made according to local customs and in areas famed for a specific product. Not all DOC are outstanding, in fact that can be part of the point, since they represent the traditions of everyday products in a given place. However generally winemakers in a DOC area inherit and pass on the knowledge of what works. Although DOCs have only existed in Italy since 1963, they are synonymous with much older traditions.
Take, for example, Barbera from the town of Alba in Piemonte, if it’s not minimum 85% Barbera/maximum 15% Nebbiolo, but still made in Alba, it cannot be sold as a Barbera d’Alba DOC. A DOC Prosecco needs to be 85% Glera and made in the areas of Belluno, Gorizia, Padova, Pordenone, Treviso, Trieste, Udine, Venezia or Vicenza.
DOC and DOCG, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, literally: Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin in the world of Prosecco respectively mean good and very good Prosecco! To obtain a DOCG label, which 25% of Prosecco does, besides reaching a higher quality standard, the wine needs to be made in one of a handful of towns in the Veneto. The most famous are Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the Province of Treviso. Go to Treviso and ask anyone what makes their wine special. They’ll tell you it’s the convergence of Alpine and Mediterranean winds.
The DOCG guidelines may form a surer path to finding happiness, but there’s a healthy quality range in DOC Proseccos as well. In either case the system won’t help you to find Prosecco that tastes like champagne, but it will help you find really good Prosecco. Remember that within the DOC and DOCG labels there’s still a full range of sweet and dry wines, so it’s not enough to purchase based on the quality control alone; it’s still important to know what you’re after in a bottle.