DOC or DOP are abbreviations that you should be used to seeing in different types of products, including wines. DOC stands for Denomination of Origin Controlled and DOP stands for Denomination of Origin Protected. In wine, they can be used in the same way, since they have the same rules. It is just and only a matter of nomenclature.
Today lets focus on DOC wines. The denomination DOC has something special for us Portuguese, as we are at the origin of all DOC’s. It is historically proven that Marquês de Pombal created in 1756 the first delimited wine region in the world, placing 335 stone marks that protected port wine grape producers from the existing forgeries of that time.
But, after all, what is DOC wine? Basically, it is a way to protect wine from counterfeiting, that is, to protect it from copies that try to recreate what is impossible to recreate, that is, to copy the characteristics of a particular place, which in turn characterize a region.
DOC wine is a wine produced within a specific region that is regulated, in which rules have been created that can go from regional limits, passing through the type of grape varieties and ways of growing them, but also the aging time before and after bottling, among others. These rules are only intended to guarantee the indisputable character of the wines produced in that area or region.
The characteristics of DOC wines cannot be enumerated, since each region has its own particularities. What I can guarantee is that a DOC wine will necessarily have a guarantee seal from the region where it was produced and that it guarantees that this wine has the physical-chemical and organoleptic qualities, tested and confirmed by the regulator of that DOC, namely the Commissions of Regional Winegrowing or CVR's; in the case of Douro and Porto the IVDP; and in Madeira, IVBAM.
CVR’s, IVDP and IVBAM are the bodies that control and regulate the 31 DOC’s that exist in Portugal. These entities have the function of ensuring that the rules of each region are complied with, as well as the quality of the wines produced in each one, and that the quality is also obligatorily linked to the regional character that the wine submitted to the approval of these bodies has, and not only to the intrinsic quality of each wine. That is, Portuguese DOC wines are not only evaluated for their quality, but also evaluated in relation to the characteristics that they have to fulfill because they are produced in that region.
We can say that the production of DOC wine is the result of the rules imposed by the region in which it is produced. I give the example of DOC Colares wines, which can only be produced from grapes of vines planted on a sandy soil, with white and red wines having to age for at least 6 and 18 months, respectively, before bottling. In the case of DOC Colares red wine, these 18 months have to be in wood deposits.
And after that aging, the wines are still required to remain in the bottle, before being launched on the market, for 3 and 6 months, respectively.
The production of a DOC wine is "bound" to very specific rules that are mandatory to comply with.
So, what is the difference between DOC wines and regional wines? And what about table wines, today just called, wines?
The big difference between these are the restrictions imposed on each of the appellations, with DOC wines being the one with the most restrictive rules. Next come regional wines (IGP – Indication of Geographical Protected), which allow, for example, greater freedom to use non-indigenous grape varieties in the region. Table wines, on the other hand, are only regulated by the rules of the IVV (Institute of Vine and Wine) which regulates the entire Portuguese wine sector.
This is not to say that you should only buy DOC wines. Far from it. Today there are regional wines and even table wines that may have a higher intrinsic quality than some DOC’s, but that just do not comply with some of the imposed regional rules, preventing them from carrying the DOC or IGP seal.
Anyway, you know that when you drink a DOC wine, it has been controlled and should reflect the character of the region that is on the label ... which has a special flavor.
Symbolically, it's like taking a trip through a bottle.