Appellation d'origine contrôlée

Appellation d'origine contrôlée

"Appellation d’origine contrôlée" (AOC), which translates as "controlled term of origin" is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau "Institut National des Appellations d'Origine" (INAO).


The origins of AOC date back to the 15th century, when Roquefort was regulated by a parliamentary decree. The first modern law was set on May 6, 1919, when the Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin was passed, specifying the region and commune that a given product must be manufactured in, and has been revised on many occasions since then. On July 30, 1935, the "Institut National des Appellations d'Origine" (INAO), a branch of the French Ministry of Agriculture, was created to manage the administration of the process for wines. In the Rhône wine region Baron Pierre Le Roy Boiseaumarié, a trained lawyer and winegrower from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, successfully obtained legal recognition of the "Côtes du Rhône" appellation of origin in 1937. The AOC seal was created and mandated by French laws in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. On July 2, 1990, the scope of work of the INAO was extended beyond wines to cover other agricultural products.

AOCs vary dramatically in size. Some cover vast expanses with a variety of climatic and soil characteristics, while others are small and highly uniform. For example, the Côtes-du-Rhône AOC "covers some 40,000 hectares, but within its area lies one of the smallest AOCs, Château-Grillet, which occupies less than four hectares of land."


The INAO guarantees that all AOC products will hold to a rigorous set of clearly defined standards. The organization stresses that AOC products will be produced in a consistent and traditional manner with ingredients from specifically classified producers in designated geographical areas. The products must further be aged at least partially in the respective designated area.

Under French law, it is illegal to manufacture and sell a product under one of the AOC-controlled geographical indications if it does not comply with the criteria of the AOC. AOC products can be identified by a seal, which is printed on the label or, in the case of cheeses, on the rind. To prevent any possible misrepresentation, no part of an AOC name may be used on a label of a product not qualifying for that AOC.

This strict label policy can lead to confusion, especially in cases where towns share names with appellations. If the town of origin of a product contains a controlled appellation in its name, the producer (who is legally required to identify the place of origin on the product label but legally prohibited from using the full town's name unless the product is an approved AOC product) is enjoined from listing anything more than a cryptic postal code. For example, there are a dozen townships in l'Aude that have Cabardès in their names, several of which are not even within the geographical boundaries of the Cabardès AOC. Any vineyard that produces wine in one of those towns must not mention the name of the town of origin on the product labels.

Legislation concerning the way vineyards are identified makes recognizing the various AOCs very challenging for wine drinkers not well-acclimated to the system. Often, distinguishing classifications requires knowledge of esoteric label laws such as "Unless the wine is from a "premier cru" vineyard, the vineyard name must be printed in characters no more than half the height of the ones used for the village name" (Joseph 2005:37).

On the other hand, while the process of label approval is enforced to the millimeter, the quality control for the wine in the bottle is much less strict. While a blind taster must approve the wine for it to receive AOC classification, this tasting often occurs before the product is even bottled by a local expert who may well have ties to the local vintners. Even if the taster is objective, the wine sample may not be representative of the actual product, and there is almost no way to verify that finished bottled product is the same as the original AOC sample (Joseph 2005:37).


In 1925, Roquefort became the first cheese to be awarded an AOC label, and since then over 40 cheeses have been assigned AOC status, with the most recent, Banon, being awarded the status in 2003.


On August 15 1957, the National Assembly gave AOC status to the poultry of Bresse (Poulet de Bresse).


Lentils for the region around Le Puy-en-Velay have been given AOC status.


Honey from the island of Corsica has been given AOC status. There are eight certified varietals of Corsican honey: Printemps, Maquis de printemps, Miellats du maquis, Châtaigneraie, Maquis d'été, and Maquis d'automne. [ [ INAO - Institut National de l'Origine et de la qualité ] ]

Other countries

Many other countries have based their controlled place name systems on the French AOC classification. Italy's Denominazione di Origine Controllata and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita and the United States' American Viticultural Areas are both systems that followed the model set by the French AOC. The United States Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau even uses the legal terminology "Appellation of Wine Origin" to describe a vintage wine's location of origin.

While Spain's Denominación de Origen is very similar, the classification of Rioja in 1925 and Sherry in 1933 preceded the French AOC system by a few years and show that Spain's DdO system developed parallel to France's AOC system to some extent. Similarly, Germany's Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete is a wine classification system based on geographic region, but it differs from the AOC in important ways. Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete wines are commonly seen as less prestigious than Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, making it more similar to the Vin de Pays or Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure systems.

Portugal's Denominação de Origem Controlada, Austria's Districtus Austria Controllatus, South Africa's Wine of Origin, and Switzerland's AOC-IGP [] are all similar to the French AOC system as well.

It appears also that AOC influenced the development of the European Union's protected designation of origin (PDO) system.

ee also

*List of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée wines
*List of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée liqueurs and spirits
*List of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée cheeses
*Protected designation of origin, a classification defined in European Union Law
*Appellation (wine)


*cite book
last = Joseph | first = Robert
title = French Wine Revised and Updated
publisher = Dorling Kindersley
date = 2005
pages = pp. 190-201
isbn = 0-7566-1520-8

*Phillips, Rod. "A Short History of Wine". NY: HarperCollins, 2000.

External links

* [ Failings of the AOC system] at []
* [ Appellations of Origin] from the TTB website
* [ INAO website]

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