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France's status as a consistently high-quality wine producer is primarily owed to classification laws like Appellations d'Origine Contrôlées or AOC. Nevertheless, reading all the French wine AOC labels can leave one feeling overwhelmed when faced with a wide selection of wines. Knowing the fundamentals, however, makes understanding French wine appellations a breeze. As an added bonus, it will serve as a guide to selecting the best wine for your particular palate. Let us quickly investigate the history of French Wine Appellation and the motivations for establishing French wine AOC regulations.
Some have speculated that the British Monarchy's massive purchases of Bordeaux wines (which they dubbed Claret) in the early nineteenth century served as inspiration for the French classification system, which dates back to 1855. However, the Gironde Chamber of Commerce mandated the official classification, driven by Napoléon III's ambition to showcase the finest of France at the Exposition Universelle de Paris. This hierarchy organized the 61 Chateaux found south of the Seine River, categorized as the "left bank," into five distinct "growths." The most expensive wines were those designated as "First Growth" or "Premières Crus," indicating their exceptional quality. The classification then progresses through a series of subsequent growth stages, numbered second, third, fourth, and fifth. The modern-day French wine AOC is still heavily influenced by Napoleon III's rating system.
A Plant-Eating Pest Almost Destroyed French Vineyards
In 1889, France passed a law to codify the standards of its wine and protect its international standing. A couple of years later, a pest called phylloxera wiped out half of the country's vineyards, resulting in a dramatic drop in wine output and the proliferation of inferior imitations of French wines. As a result, France formed the INAO (Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité) in 1935 to manage and ensure the high quality of French wine and other cultural products. One of the first things they did was divide France into what we know today as AOCs.
A wine with an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) is recognized for having been made in a particular region and for adhering to specific benchmarks of quality and presentation. For instance, Champagne and sparkling wine are often mixed up. According to the French wine AOC, a bottle of French wine labeled "Champagne" must be a sparkling wine produced in the classic style from the Champagne region using Chardonnay, Meunier, and/or Pinot Noir. However, the term "French Cremant" is reserved for sparkling French wines produced in areas other than Champagne. To keep with this heritage, Barton & Guestier selects, produces, bottles, and exports premium French Appellation wines to over 130 countries. Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Beaujolais, Bourgogne, Rhone Valley, and Provence are just a couple of the 19 exquisite French Wine Appellations made possible thanks to the efforts of nearly 150 winegrowers collaborating with B&G.
Several locational and quality-based labels can be found within the French wine Appellations themselves. Let's take a quick glance at the list of French wine appellation categories:
In the broadest sense of an AOC, "regional" describes the AOC's geographic origin. Examples include the Bordeaux and Burgundy wine regions.
There are smaller subregions within AOC regions that are renowned for their own distinctive wines and terroir. The Médoc region of Bordeaux and the Chablis area of Burgundy are just two examples.
The geographic scope of a commune is typically only a few miles, though it can be as small as a single village or town. Pauillac in Médoc and Côtes d'Auxerre in Chablis are two such regions.
At this stage, the quality of an AOC may be further specified by designating a Cru, which is shorthand for a particular vineyard or cluster of vineyards that is widely acknowledged as being of stellar quality.
A Look At IGP And Vin De France
Wines with the Indication Géographique Protégée designation are also known as "Vin de Pays," which literally translates to "country wine." There are 74 regions included in IGP, each with its own unique designation. Pays d'Oc, Comté-Tolosan, and the Val de Loire are just a few examples. In the event that an AOC refers to particular locations and speciﬁc rules, an IGP will widen the scope of those rules. A bottle of Bordeaux wine, for instance, might contain a sweet white wine concentrated by botrytis and made from up to three distinct grape varieties. Many styles and grape types can be classified as wines from the Pays d'Oc IGP, so the term is used broadly. On the other hand, the generic term "Vin de France" describes basic French table wines that are not associated with a specific region. The grapes can be sourced from anywhere, and the winemaking guidelines are lenient.
Two of Our Favorite French Wine Regions
The sheer diversity of France's AOC wine landscape might be overwhelming for some. Here, we've narrowed your options down to two of France's most legendary wine regions to help you make a quick decision.
While France is unquestionably the world's most respected wine-producing nation, Bordeaux is probably its most recognized region, with a setting of unparalleled splendor, cultural significance, and centuries-old winemaking practices. Taking advantage of the area's ideal climate and rich soil, Barton & Guestier has thrived on producing AOC Bordeaux classified and intensely flavored Bordeaux Rouge, adding a dash of glittering freshness to every occasion.
Located in the Rhône Valley in the south of France, the Duché d'Uzès is another wine appellation with AOC status. Wines from this region are known for being spicy and expertly made, bringing together the Cevennes' chill and the zesty nature of the south. B&G's Heritage 293 is the crowning achievement of this fertile region, encapsulating the vitality and roundness of Duché d'Uzès in a single bottle.
Although wine has earned its place in our society for thousands and thousands of years, the question of who invented it -and when- still remains unanswered. As one might guess, the answer is far from simple, and the history of wine is deeply marked by mythology, which makes it difficult to separate...
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