In France, the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC, "Controlled Designation of Origin") is a certification of authenticity granted to certain geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, under the auspices of the Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO), based upon the terroir and a form of geographic protectionism.Most products with an AOC designation are also Protected Designations of Origin (PDO)/Appelation d'orrigine protégée (AOP) under EU law and UK law. For those products, only the PDO or AOP designation can be used. However, wines with a PDO/AOP status can still use the French AOC designation.
The origins of AOC date to the year 1411, when the production of blue Roquefort cheese was regulated by parliamentary decree. The first French law determining viticultural designations of origin dates to the 1 August 1905, [ citation needed ] On July 30, 1935, the Comité National des appellations d'origine (CNAO), with representatives of the government and the major winegrowers, was created to manage the administration of the process for wines at the initiative of deputy Joseph Capus. 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 1936.[ citation needed ] After World War II the committee became the public-private Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO). 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 .[ citation needed ]whereas 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 in which a given product must be manufactured, and has been revised on many occasions since then.
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 400 square kilometres (150 sq mi), but within its area lies one of the smallest AOCs, Château-Grillet, which occupies less than 4 hectares (9.9 acres) 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 in wines, and with 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.
There are currently over 300 French wines entitled to the designation AOC on their label. Wines still may use this label, despite classification under EU and UK law as Protected Designation of Origin.
Legislation concerning the way vineyards are identified makes recognizing the various AOCs very challenging for wine drinkers not accustomed 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."
On the other hand, while the process of label approval is enforced to the millimetre, 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, and 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 the finished bottled product is the same as the original AOC sample.
In 1925, Roquefort became the first cheese to be awarded an AOC label, and since then over 40 cheeses have been assigned AOC status. The generally are also classified as Protected Designations of Origin under EU law, and thus use the PDO/AOP logo, rather than the AOC logo.
On August 15, 1957, the National Assembly gave AOC status to the poultry of Bresse (Poulet de Bresse). In 2006, it awarded AOC status to salt marsh lamb raised in the Bay of the Somme.
In 1981, the AOC label was given to Haute-Provence Lavender Essential Oil. It refers to a very high-quality production and concerns only the essential oil of fine lavender - Lavandula angustifolia . The fields must be located within a specific territory at a minimum altitude of 800 meters. This geographic area covers 284 communities in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Drôme and Vaucluse regions.
Lentils from Le Puy-en-Velay have AOC status as well as PDO-status as Lentille verte du Puy.
Honey from the island of Corsica has been given AOC status. There are six certified varietals of Corsican honey: Printemps, Maquis de printemps, Miellats du maquis, Châtaigneraie, Maquis d'été, and Maquis d'automne.
France recognizes the Charente, Charente-Maritime, Vienne, Deux-Sèvres and Vendée AOC regions for butter.
The Beurre Charentes-Poitou has been assigned AOC status in 1979 and PDO status in 1996 as Beurre Charentes-Poitou / Beurre des Charentes / Beurre des Deux-Sèvres.
Armagnac, Calvados, Cognac and Martinique Rhum Agricole all have AOC status.
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 followed the model set by the French AOC, and the EU standard for Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWpsr) also corresponds closely.
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 Supérieure 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, that now largely has replaced the AOC designations.
Switzerland has an appellation d'origine contrôlée certification for wines and an appellation d'origine protégée certification for other food products. Before 2013, the appellation d'origine contrôlée was used for all products.
The United States' American Viticultural Areas also follows the model set by the French AOC. The United States Department of the Treasury's 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. The AVA indication on a label indicates that 85% of the grapes for wine are grown in the designated AVA. Overall, the appellation of a wine simply says where the grapes are from, although there are some particularities. If the appellation is a state, 100% of the grapes which go into the wine must come from the specific state. If a winery gets grapes from a neighboring state (for example, a California vintner getting Pinot noir from Oregon), it may label the wine "Oregon", but if the state is not a neighboring one (for example, a California vintner getting Cabernet from Washington state), the only permitted appellation is "American."
In Canada, there is a government-sanctioned wine standard called Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). It only applies to Canadian wines, and only the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia regulate it.
Outside their home country, protecting the AOC status of certain products can face challenges, notably from a legal perspective. Some countries do not uphold a geographical indication system for their own products and thus, products which are labelled AOC in France, for instance, can be confronted on the international stage with foreign products claiming a similar geographical origin, even though it has not been recognized as such by the AOC system. In such a case, France (or another country) may enter into bilateral agreements with other countries, whereupon the signatories accept to recognize a special status to a list of designated products, or it can also seek the development of rules or agreements at the World Trade Organization level.
Since each country has its own legal and agricultural framework, the specifics of each trade relationship are likely to vary. Also, there are often conflicts between trademarks and geographical indications.For instance, in Canada, only Canadian wines can be VQA approved but other certification trademarks can be registered under the intellectual property legal regime. The owner of a certification trademark is then allowed to sell licences to be used for certain products meeting the owner's criteria. Thus in the case of wines, one AOC certification trademark is owned by the French Republic, while another is owned by Maison des Futailles, a wine producer, of which the publicly owned Société des alcools du Québec is a partner.
Gruyère is a hard yellow Swiss cheese that originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne in Switzerland. It is named after the town of Gruyères in Fribourg. In 2001, Gruyère gained the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), which became the appellation d'origine protégée (AOP) as of 2013.
An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication primarily used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown, although other types of food often have appellations as well. Restrictions other than geographical boundaries, such as what grapes may be grown, maximum grape yields, alcohol level, and other quality factors may also apply before an appellation name may legally appear on a wine bottle label. The rules that govern appellations are dependent on the country in which the wine was produced.
Three European Union schemes of geographical indications and traditional specialties, known as protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI), and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG), promote and protect names of agricultural products and foodstuffs. Products registered under one of the three schemes may be marked with the logo for that scheme to help identify those products. The schemes are based on the legal framework provided by the EU Regulation No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. This regulation applies within the EU as well as in Northern Ireland. Protection of the registered products is gradually expanded internationally via bilateral agreements between the EU and non-EU countries. It ensures that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed to be identified as such in commerce. The legislation first came into force in 1992. The purpose of the law is to protect the reputation of the regional foods, promote rural and agricultural activity, help producers obtain a premium price for their authentic products, and eliminate the unfair competition and misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavour. Critics argue that many of the names, sought for protection by the EU, have become commonplace in trade and should not be protected.
The following four classifications of wine constitute the Italian system of labelling and legally protecting Italian wine:
In Spain, the denominación de origen is part of a regulatory geographical indication system used primarily for foodstuffs such as cheeses, condiments, honey, and meats, among others. In wines, it parallels the hierarchical systems of France (1935) and Italy (1963), although Rioja (1925) and Jerez (1933) preceded the full system. In foods, it performs a similar role, namely regulation of quality and geographical origin among Spain's finest producers. There are five other designated categories solely for wine and a further three specifically covering food and condiments, all recognised by the European Union (EU). In Catalonia, two further categories – labelled A and Q – cover traditional Catalan artisan food products, but were not recognised by the EU as of 2007. In recent decades, the concept of the denominación de origen has been adopted by other countries, primarily in Latin America. In 2016, the use of the Denominación de Origen (DO) wines were registered as a European Union Protected Designations of Origin/Denominación de Origen Protegida (PDO/DOP), but the traditional Portuguese term of DO can still be used legally on labels.
Emmental, Emmentaler, or Emmenthal is a yellow, medium-hard cheese that originated in the area around Emmental, in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. It is classified as a Swiss-type or Alpine cheese.
A geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used on products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin. The use of a geographical indication, as an indication of the product's source, acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a good reputation due to its geographical origin.
Vin délimité de qualité supérieure, usually abbreviated as VDQS, was the second highest category of French wine, below Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in rank, but above Vin de pays. VDQS was sometimes written as AOVDQS, with AO standing for Appellation d'Origine. VDQS wines were subject to restrictions on yield and vine variety, among others.
Bugey wine is produced in the Bugey region in the Ain département of France, under the two VDQS designations Bugey and Roussette du Bugey. On May 28, 2009, INAO gave its final approval for the elevation of Bugey and Roussette du Bugey to Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) status.
The Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO) is the French organization charged with regulating French agricultural products with Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs). Controlled by the French government, it forms part of the Ministry of Agriculture. The organization was co-founded by Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer Baron Pierre Le Roy.
French wine is produced all throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year, or 7–8 billion bottles. France is one of the largest wine producers in the world, along with Italian, Spanish, and American wine-producing regions. French wine traces its history to the 6th century BC, with many of France's regions dating their wine-making history to Roman times. The wines produced range from expensive wines sold internationally to modest wines usually only seen within France such as the Margnat wines were during the post war period.
Ossau-Iraty is an Occitan-Basque cheese made from sheep milk.
Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions is a quality indicator used within European Union wine regulations. The QWpsr category identifies wines with protected geographical indications and Protected designations of origin. The European Union regulates and defines the status of "quality wines" according to production method, management and geographical location. Its original, fundamental role is in differentiating quality wines from table wines, broadly in line with the system traditionally employed by the French government, amended to account for the preferences and methodology of Italian and German growers, among others in the EU.
The wine region of Alsace produces wines under three different Appellations d'Origine Contrôlées (AOCs): Alsace AOC for white, rosé and red wines, Alsace Grand Cru AOC for white wines from certain classified vineyards and Crémant d'Alsace AOC for sparkling wines. This region is the only French wine region allowed to label its wines based on variety.
Vin de France is a designation for table wine from France that has been in use since 2010, when it started to replace the former vin de table category. Vin de France wines may indicate grape variety and vintage on the label, but are not labelled by region or appellation; they are labelled only as coming from France. This means that the wines are typically sold under brand names or as branded varietal wines.
In Switzerland, the appellation d'origine protégée is a geographical indication protecting the origin and the quality of traditional food products other than wines.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is the name of a type of Geographical Indication of the European Union and the United Kingdom aimed at preserving the designations of origin of food-related products. The designation was created in 1992 and its main purpose is to designate products that have been produced, processed and developed in a specific geographical area, using the recognized know-how of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned.