How to know a wine classification by its "appellation"
Since the place of
origin is a decisive factor in the type (and the possible degree
of greatness) of the wine, French law regulates the naming of
wines very strictly. The regulations of the “Appellations
d'Origine" and “Appellations Contrôlées" are extremely detailed.
Several thousand grape varieties or "cépages"
belonging to the European species Vitis vinifera exist. However,
the varieties which produce the great French appellations are
limited in number (136 are listed in the INA0 - ' Institut
National des Appellations d'Origine’ (National Institute of the
Each "cépage" has its own characteristics, which cause it to
adapt to the environment (climate, soil) in a particular manner.
Its technical characteristics, such as the colour of the berries
and qualities of the must, are of prime
importance in oenology.
They vary with the weather, the nature of the
soil and its moisture, and the pruning and training of the vine.
A single vine variety cultivated in different localities will
yield different wines. Furthermore, each grape type contributes
its own aromas and flavours to the wine.
The suitability of grape to environment determines the quality
and style of wine produced. Careful observations made by growers
over the centuries have resulted in the selection of the most
suitable grapes for each region.
All the French grape varieties used appear on an official list
and are classified as recommended" or "authorised" in each
department. Each appellation is made from specific rapes as
listed in the INAO decrees. Grapes intended for the making of
wine are called "cépages" de cuve".
CLASSIFICATION OF WINES
The average annual production of French wine
is 70 million hectolitres. It is extremely varied and under
French law is divided into several categories.
Under European Union regulations, wines are grouped in two
classes: "Vins de Table" and VQPRD "Vlns de Qualité Prodults
dans une Région Déterminée", quality wines produced in specific
In France each of these categories is subdivided into further
categories, so that there are four classes of French wines :
"Vins de Table"
"Vlns de Pays", including "Vlns de Pays de
"AO VDQS" (Appellation d'Origine - Vins
délimités de Qualité Supérieure), often referred to as ''VDQS''
"AOC" (Appellation d'Onigine Contrôlée)
French wine production can be represented in
the ultra-simplifled form of a pyramid with simple Vins de Table
at the base and the great "Appellation d'Onigine Contrôlée''
wines at the apex.
The following pages give details of these
wine classifications starting with the Vins de Table.