Understanding Wine Labels  - Protected Designation of Origin

Posted by Jen Saunders on

Originating in France, the ‘appellation d'origine contrôlée’ system was designed to indicate the provenance of a wine, it acts as a certificate that wines awarded the right to use that particular AOC adhere to certain quality rules, grape blends, winemaking  methods and has been born of a particular terroir.

There are now 15 winemaking nations that have adopted a similar system, here are some of the most important.


There are over 450 AOC wines in France, some of the most prestigious being Chateauneuf du Pape, Montrachet & St Emilion.  There are many more quality indicators specific to different AOC’s such as the premier crus of Burgundy, or ‘villages’ wines, but more on that in another post.

Wines of lesser quality have historically been indicated as ‘Vin de Table’, and are only permitted to indicate grape variety or brand name, not region or vintage, these wines have been recently reclassified as ‘Vin de France.’  There is a further intermediate category of ‘Vin de Pays,’ or ‘country wines’ which may specify region, grape variety and vintage, but are subject to more lenient regulation than AOC wines.  Vin de Pay has recently been reclassified as IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée.)


There are 3 grades of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO – a blanket term used by the EU), in Italy, each one more restrictive than the last.  The broader system is called Denominazione di Origine Controllata, and the 3 grades are ‘DO’ - Denominazione di Origine, ‘DOC’ - Denominazione di Origine Controllata and ‘DOCG’ - Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. 

Beneath the DOCG classification lies Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), specifically created to define Super Tuscans, which are high quality modern wines that do not adhere to DOCG specifications, but are of similar quality.


There are 120 wine regions in Spain, classified into the following categories.

DOC/DOQ – Denomenacion de Origen Calificada/Qualificada (Catalan)

There are only two regions awarded this prestigious classification, and those are Rioja, and more recently Priorat.  Their wines are subject to stringent quality controls, and are required to cost at least double the average price of DO wines.

DO – Denominacion de Origen

Formerly the highest class of wine in Spain, until Rioja was awarded its own category in 1988.  DO wines are comparable to French AOC wines.

VCIG/VC - Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica

A recently introduced holding cell for wines considered superior to VdlT, and potential candidates for DO.

VdlT - Vino de la Tierra

Lightly regulated regional wines, equivalent of the French Vin de Pays.

VdM - Vino de Mesa

An unusual classification, in that it holds table wines at the lowest end of the quality ladder, but also wines that fall outside of DO/DOC due to blending, or innovating outside of recognised methods.

VP - Vino de Pago

Indicates wines produced from a single estate or vineyard, often also categorised into DO/VdlT as well.

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