Appellation d’Origine Controlée
It is widely known that the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlée) guides France’s
wine laws and is regarded a gold standard model for wine producing countries
around the world. There are three main categories of wine under the AOC system.
In Ascending quality:
1. Vins d’Appellations d’Origine Controlée
These are the finest wines of France. 300 French wines hold this title. Each of
the 300 wines that have been given this title have abided by a very strict set of
regulations, which fall into eight categories:
• Area of Production
Each wine growing region in France is strictly defined. Only wine made from the
grapes grown within those boarders have the right to use that appellation (for
example, Bordeaux or Champagne)
• Grape Varietals
Each geographical area has permissible grape varieties and given proportions.
This is based on historical records that have determined which varieties perform
best in particular soils and climates. If a producer makes wine with grapes other
than those permitted or in improper proportions, they forfeit their right to use
• Yield per Hectare
Larger grape yields decrease their quality, so the best crop comes with a
restricted yield. Maximum grape yields are set for each appellation. For
example, in Bordeaux, the maximum yield for red wine is 55 hectoliters per
hectare, which translates to 1452 gallons of wine for every 2.47 acres.
• Viticultural Practices
This category regulates pruning techniques and timing, fertilization methods, the
type of trellising system and irrigation guidelines.
• Alcohol Content
All wines denoted as AOC wines must stay within a certain range of alcohol
• Wine Making Practices
Based on historical studies, wine-making practices are controlled in each
appellation. This includes guidelines on aging requirements and chapitalization
(the process of adding sugar to increase alcohol content).
• Tasting Analysis
All wines given the label AOC must go through a chemical analysis as well as
pass a taste test for typicity. If the wine doesn’t stay true to its kind, it will be
• Varietal Labeling
While the regulations surrounding this category are beginning to change,
traditionally, producers were forbidden to put the name of the grape varietal on
the label. In doing so, they would be forfeiting the right to use the appellation.
2. Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieure
Wines in this category fall slightly below those in the AOC in terms of quality.
These wines tend to have higher grape yields and lower alcohol levels
3. Vins de Pays
These “country wines” are defined by regions much less strictly regulated than
AOC wines. Grape yields tend to be much higher and grape varietal regulations
are much more lenient.