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APPELLATION d'ORIGINE CONTRÔLÉE is the French system of designating, controlling and protecting the geography and the quality of wines (as well as liquors and some food products, such as cheeses). It is also known simply as APPELLATION CONTRÔLÉE and often abbreviated as AOC or AC.

Near the end of the 19th Century, French vineyards (as well as most all vineyards in Europe) suffered near devastation from vine diseases and pests that were accidentally introduced from America. These included Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew, and Phylloxera. The European wine industry was very near ruin before measures were found to deal with these problems.

In the intervening years, the available quantity of the fine wine was reduced to a trickle and demand for French wine reached a historically high level. Fraud and adulteration were rampant and widespread until the French government passed a series of laws in the beginning of the 20th Century aimed at ending these deceptions.

The AOC laws specify and delimit the geography from which a particular wine (or other product) may originate and methods by which it may be made. The regulations are now administered by a powerful quasi-governmental body, Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, or INAO, founded in 1935. Every imaginable facet from producer to consumer has been considered and most are either controlled or regulated. Use of AC geographic terms on wine labels requires absolute compliance.

Terroir-ists Victims of Statutory Grape!
Recently many French wine growers and producers, particularly due to market competition from New World wine brands, have been protesting the strictness of the AOC laws. For example, it seems that the average wine-drinking consumer is perfectly willing to learn a few, or even dozens, of the grape variety names to assist them when wine shopping, but totally unwilling to learn the thousands of French appellations, especially when AOC rules prevent most producers from displaying grape varieties on the labels of wines from their most famous appellations (exception: Alsace)...

Page created January 8, 2005; updated October 6, 2014
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