The appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC; French
pronunciation: [a.pɛ.la.sjɔ̃ dɔ.ʁi.ʒin kɔ̃.tʁo.le];
"protected designation 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,
Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité
Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO). It
is based on the concept of terroir.
11 Other countries
11.3 United States
11.5 International trade issues
12 See also
15 External links
The origins of AOC date to the year 1411, when Roquefort was regulated
by a parliamentary decree. The first French law on viticultural
designations of origin dates to August 1, 1905, 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 . 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 1937.
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 .
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
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
There are currently over 300 French wines entitled to the designation
AOC on their label.
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
Premier Cru vineyard, the vineyard name must be printed in
characters no more than half the height of the ones used for the
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.
Poulet de Bresse
On August 15, 1957, the National Assembly gave AOC status to the
Bresse (Poulet de Bresse). In 2006, it awarded AOC status
to salt marsh lamb raised in the Bay of the Somme.
Lavandula angustifolia at the
Abbaye de Sénanque
Abbaye de Sénanque in
Gordes in the
département of the Vaucluse
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
Le Puy-en-Velay have AOC status. (See: Le Puy Green
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
France recognizes the Charente, Charente-Maritime, Vienne,
Vendée AOC regions for butter.
The Beurre Charentes-Poitou has been assigned AOC status in 1979.
Martinique Rhum Agricole all have AOC
Many other countries have based their controlled place name systems on
the French AOC classification. Italy's Denominazione di Origine
Denominazione di Origine Controllata
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
Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWpsr) also corresponds
Denominación de Origen
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
Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete is a wine classification system
based on geographic region, but it differs from the AOC in important
Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete
Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete wines are commonly seen
as less prestigious than Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, making it more
similar to the
Vin de Pays
Vin de Pays or Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure
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.
Further information: Geographical indications and traditional
specialities in Switzerland
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
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau even uses the legal
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,
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
Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). It only applies to Canadian wines,
and only the provinces of
British Columbia regulate it.
International trade issues
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
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.
Geographical indications and traditional specialities in the European
Geographical indications and traditional specialities in Switzerland
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée cheeses
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée liqueurs and spirits
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée wines
Protected designation of origin, a classification defined in European
Denominazione di origine controllata, a similar certification
regulated by Italian law
^ EC-ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Co-operation Programme, Unit
4. Trademarks and Geographical Indications[full citation needed]
Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. (by Professor Michael
Blakeney, October 2007), p. 52
^ Bouneau, Christine (1998). "CAPUS Joseph, Marie 1867-1947".
Dictionnaire des parlementaires d'Aquitaine sous la Troisième
République (in French). Presses Univ de Bordeaux. p. 182.
ISBN 978-2-86781-231-6. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
^ Lukacs, Paul (2013-10-21). Inventing Wine: A New History of One of
the World's Most Ancient Pleasures: A New History of One of the
World's Most Ancient Pleasures. W. W. Norton. p. PT200.
ISBN 978-0-393-23964-5. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
^ a b Joseph, Robert (2005). French Wine Revised and Updated. Dorling
Kindersley. p. 37. ISBN 0-7566-1520-8.
^ Lascève, Agnès (June 19, 2011). "La baie de Somme".
FrancePress. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
^ "INAO - Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité".
^ (in French) Beurre Charentes-Poitou
^ "WINES: What's in a Name?". winetrail.com.
^ "Quibbling Siblings: Conflicts between Trademarks and Geographical
Indications". ssrn.com. SSRN 1000467 . Missing or empty
^ "Canadian trade-mark data". ic.gc.ca.
^ "Canadian trade-mark data". ic.gc.ca.
Phillips, Roderick (2000). A Short History of Wine. New York:
HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-621282-0.
Appellations of Origin from the TTB website