European Wine Classifications

I’m biting off way more than I can chew explaining classifications of wine in a short blog post but it’s valuable to know especially when shopping. I’m sure many of you have looked at the classifications on labels and wondered what they meant.

This information will be very general and probably out dated over time but here goes…

Classifications guarantee the requirements for the specific classification have been met and generally designate rank, but are not a guarantee of quality. The requirements vary and get more specific the greater the classification. Think of the classification system as a pyramid where the 1st Tier in the chart below is the highest rank of the pyramid and the 4th Tier is the lowest rank.



Country 1st Tier 2nd Tier 3rd Tier 4th Tier
France AOP/AOC*

Grand & Premier Cru1

AOP/AOC2* Vin de Pays/IGP2 Vin de Table/France2
Italy DOCG3 DOC3 IGT/IGP3 Vino da Tavola
Spain DOCa DO/DO Pago Vino de la Tierra Vino de Mesa
Germany Prädikatswein5 QbA Landwein Deutscher Tafelwein

*The geographic area of an AOC varies greatly from a region to small vineyard.

1In Bordeaux, Premier Cru refers to the top level within the Grand Cru, which makes Premier Cru the highest level. In Burgundy, Grand Cru refers to the top level and Premier Cru follows in second place.

2In 2012 the EU changed the titles but you will still see labels with old titles

3In 2008 the EU changed the law to combine DOCG/DOC to DOP; however, tradition has kept Italians from changing on labels. IGT was changed under the same law to IGP this may be seen on some labels.

Note: When you see “Chianti Classico DOCG” on a label, it refers to wine made from the historical heart of Chianti dating back to the Middle Ages with somewhat higher standards.

5Prädikatswein are further classified by ripeness.  In ascending order, they are – Kabinett, Spätlese, Aulese, Beerenaulese, Eiswien, Trockenbeerenaulese


Adapted from Neel Burton