How Is French Wine Classified?

In the year 1935, when INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) had been established, France was the first nation for setting up countrywide system to control origin as well as quality of the wines, though individual wine regions outside France had placed quality controls quiet earlier (Rioja in 1560 and in 1716, Chianti). The task of INAO was devising geographical limits of appellations as well as enforcing regulations governing them.


Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) FOR FRENCH WINE

Now there are more than 470 different AOCs that cover nearly 490,000 hectares as well as produce nearly 29 million hectolitres of  French wine. AOC laws regulate viticultural methods, yield and harvest restrictions, grape varieties used, winemaking techniques, and minimum alcohol content for every area. The laws are responsible for controlling quality of all French wines by having them pass official tasting and analysis, latter of these have become a thing of farce, because tasting judges panel include individuals who are producing wine actually. Moreover, wines aren’t tasted and passed on basis of tank by tank, the absence of this strategy is mainly responsible for maximum of the highly worst AOC French wines available on shelf. All producers virtually I know of say that only some French wines have faults and are likely to get rejected without any account taken of quality or whether or not that wine reflects character of grapes utilized or express some specific regional style. There were some who are honest enough for explaining that maximum individuals are highly afraid of starting the ball rolling on style or quality issue for fear that manufacturers’ whose French wines get rejected may seek revenge by indiscriminately rejecting other wines. It’s little surprising hence, only 2 to 3 percent wines are unsuccessful at passing such sham tastings.

French wine vineyardsThe system of tasting for French wine is deficient obviously as proved by the glut of highly poor-quality AOCs that are placed on shelf each year. Still the best AOC French wines are the best but without some overhauling system, the onus continues much on the knowledge of customers for discerning reputation of individual manufacturers.

On a much positive note, tougher controls have been instituted by INAO in vineyards that can result in distillation of complete crop of growers who surpass PLC (Plafond Limité de Classement). PLC is absolute maximum yield for all AOC. It is generally set at 20% above base yielding that itself can be adjusted upward on annual basis normally by some 10% to 15%. Local work committees have been formed by INAO to visit vineyards for detecting any aberrations. Not exclusively but essentially, they’ll be looking for the signs of overproduction and in case found guilty, they’ll tell the grower to green harvest, thin bunches, or prune. In that year later, growers will get their complete crop declassified in case he’s not done as asked. For future, years to come, these offenders will not be provided opportunity for rectifying over-cropping and can have their complete crop carted off for the distillation because of inadequate pruning. The efficacy of such initiative of course depends on how tough is the work committee and just as AOC tasting panels, this committee will include French winegrowers.