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French Wine  -  French Wine Classifications or "appellations"

FRENCH Food > FRENCH Wine > French Wine Names or "appellations"

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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 original appellations)).

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".


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 regions.

In France each of these categories is subdivided into further categories, so that there are four classes of French wines :

  1. "Vins de Table"

  2. "Vlns de Pays", including "Vlns de Pays de Cépage''

  3. "AO VDQS" (Appellation d'Origine - Vins délimités de Qualité Supérieure), often referred to as ''VDQS''

  4. "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.



Why then are French wines so unique ?

  Vins de Table, Vins de Pays

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