What’s the Difference Between DOCG and DOC Italian Wines?

Standing in the wine aisle of the supermarket trying to choose a bottle of wine can be a bit of a minefield.

There is so much choice and types of wine to choose from, not to mention the labels. Many wines have a label of designation on them, but what do they really mean?

As we are fans of Italian wine – here is a quick clarification on what the labels mean.

In the 1960s, Italy decided to establish a series of laws to guarantee the quality and authenticity of their wines – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC.)

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

This is the highest classification Italian wines can be awarded. It means that there are (controllata) controlled production methods and (garantita) guaranteed wine quality with each bottle.

There are strict rules governing the production of DOCG wines – most importantly the grape varieties, yield limits, grape ripeness, winemaking procedures, and barrel/bottle maturation.

Every DOCG wine is subject to official tasting procedures. To prevent counterfeiting, the bottles have a numbered government seal.

Here are some top DOCG Italian wines

  • Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany)
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany)
  • Chianti (Tuscany)
  • Barolo (Piedmont)
  • Barbaresco (Piedmont)

Today there are 73 wines with DOCG status in Italy

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)

The more common cousin is a DOC wine. The rules are still very strict regarding quality and authenticity.

This label covers a wide variety of Italian wine styles.  There are over 330 individual DOC titles each with a set of laws governing its viticultural zone, permitted grape varieties and wine style.

Those which show consistently high quality earn promotion to DOCG status – for example, Soave DOC.

Here are some top DOC Italian wines

  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo)
  • Orvieto (Umbria)
  • Bardolini (Veneto)
  • Soave (Veneto)
  • Valpolicella (Veneto) 


We love Prosecco here at Flavours, so below we list the two labels you should consider when buying Prosecco. Prosecco is now protected (like Champagne) and can only be produced in the Veneto region of Italy. In 2009 the Prosecco-producing region of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene was elevated to DOCG status. This is the heartland of Prosecco making, comprising of just 13 hilly communes around the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.

Here are the two types of labels you should look for:

  • DOCG Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene
  • DOC Prosecco

The area designated DOC is slightly larger and not as hilly, but is still restricted to the land surrounding Treviso.

In the past, before DOCG and DOC status was given to Prosecco in Veneto, sparkling wine made from the Glera grape in Alto-Adige, Trentino, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia was labeled as Prosecco – this is no longer permitted.

Here are some handy Italian wine terms to help decode wine labels:

Italian Wine Terms
AmaroneDry red wine made from dry grapes
ClassicoDenotes the traditional, superior, vineyard area within a DOC/DOCG zone
FrizzanteSlightly sparkling
Imbottigliato all’origineEstate-bottled
RiservaDenotes extended ageing (in cask, then bottle)
Vin SantoA dessert wine originally from Tuscany, generally made from air-dried Trebbiano grapes

If you fancy sampling wine in the beautiful cities of Italy, check out our availability for organised trips.

Flavours Blog

Italian food, lifestyle and culture blog – by the Flavours Holidays team.