French laws divide wines into two different categories of quality wine: Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée and Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieure.
Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée:
This designation is abbreviated AC or AOC, and it refers to a specific area within a wine region. Every major wine region in France handles its AC laws a bit differently, which can make the system a bit confusing. But each AC addresses the following points:
- The areas of production that are included in each AC. These boundaries are based somehow on soil types, but the AC may include several different soil type areas.
- Allowed grape varieties. Each AC has a history of growing certain grapes, and the permitted grapes are now governed by law.
- Viticulture. Types of planting and training and pruning methods are all controlled.
- Yield. Each AC has a controlled amount of yield that a given acreage is allowed to produce.
- Vinification. Fermentation, bottling, and aging are all controlled.
- Alcohol levels. A minimum alcohol level is specified, which must be reached without chaptalization.
Each region has its ow hierarchy of appellations, which are based on geography. As the geographic description of the AC gets more specific, the quality increases, and the production is even more heavily regulated. Each individual vineyard may have several different AC wines that it produces. This will become clearer as I cover each individual reason in the near future.
Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieur:
This designtation was started in 1949, as a stepping stone to the AC designation. This category only represents about 1 percent of total wine production in France, so it doesn't currently play a large role in the French system.