A few weeks ago I mentioned Appellation Controlee rules in France, and, having read the piece, one gentleman came into our shop wanting to know what these rules actually are
The full title is Appellation d’Origine Controlee, often referred to as AOC, but for this piece I will just use Appellation Controlee.
Following disease and pestilence in the French vineyards (and most of Europe) in the late 1800s, grapes in some regions were almost non-existent. Winemakers resorted to buying grapes in from just about anywhere to make their wines.
The resulting product was clearly not from any one particular region.
So if it said Bordeaux on the bottle it could in fact have been made from grapes from miles away.
The Government had noticed this and steps to protect regional wines were taken. Appellation Controllee rules were born.
These rules stipulate the grape varieties, the soils and the methods of winemaking so the consumer can be sure that the wine is actually what it says on the label.
This has really turned out to be one of the first guarantees for the consumer.
The whole of the European wine industry has, country by country, taken on this concept using their own set of rules.
It is better to use one country to describe how it works. The French started at the top and classified all their major regions.
Let’s quickly look at Burgundy.
For generic Burgundy we will see Appellation Controlee Bourgogne written on the label.
This simply means it is from the Burgundy region.
There are many sub-regions such as Chablis, Meursault, Puligny Montrachet and all these will have Appellation Controlee.
This is the same in Bordeaux, with Appellation Controlee Bordeaux covering the whole region, and then many more Appellations covering the various areas such as St Emilion, Margaux, Medoc etc.
In Spain, look for DOC on the label, in Italy DOCG, in Portugal DO.
The system is great and is a symbol of basic local quality and guarantees the product is what it says it is!
It is fair to say that there is a huge difference between winemakers and this where a little knowledge is important.
Published: March 1, 2012
Have your say
AOC is very presciptive about the percentages of each grape variety. Here in the Languedoc there is a growing movement to reject this approach and vary the wine by altering the percentages of each grape variety according to which type is best in a given year. This often reults in excellent wine called vin du pays which can be just as good and a lot cheaper!