Special classification : At this stage, the AOC can be defined more precisely with regard to quality by declaring a Cru, which designates a specific vineyard or group of vineyards normally recognised for their quality.

AOC Wine: Decoding French Wine Classifications

Where does AM come from?

In order to control the reputation of wine and other cultural products, France founded the INAO in 1935. The establishment of the AOC itself was widely supported by the winemaker Baron Pierre Le Roy, which led to the first AOC: Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Until 1937, the AOC was introduced for classic wine regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne and set standards and regulations that are still in force today.

For example, AOC legislation ensures that when you buy a bottle of French wine labelled with champagne, you get a sparkling wine made in the traditional way in the Chardonnay region with Chardonnay, Meunier and/or Pinot Noir. (And he’s just scratching the surface of the standards).

AOC Wine: Decoding French Wine Classifications

What is the PGI?

There is another level of French wines that deserves to be studied: BGA wines. This classification name means Travelling Wine or Vin de Pays, as in English vin de pays.

The PGI mentions 74 geographical areas and 150 unique designations. Examples are the Pays d’Oc, the Comté-Tolosan and the Loire Valley.

Regional PGI wines allow you to use more grape varieties and lower standards in the production of a particular wine. This means that there is less regulation, leading to a much greater variation in quality than that observed for AOC wines. In rare cases, manufacturers choose this classification because their defect goes beyond the rules applicable to AOCs.

What is the difference between AOS and PGI?

While the AOC refers to certain places and specific rules, the BGA extends these rules. Generally speaking, the PGI comes from a larger area with fewer rules governing grape production and less authorised varieties. It is therefore very common for French PGI wines to indicate on the label the grape varieties used.

With a bottle of wine from the Sautern de Bordeaux sub-region, for example, you usually know what to expect: a sweet white wine concentrated in botrytis, made from up to three specific grape varieties. However, Pays d’Oc PGI wines may refer to white, red or rosé wines of different styles and grape varieties.

This does not mean that you automatically prefer an AOC wine to a BGA wine. Only the standards laid down in the AOC are more specific.

AOC Wine: Decoding French Wine Classifications

What is Vin de France ?

Technically, Vin de France is the worst of all French wines. Vins de France are simple table wines for which no specific area has been defined. With these designations you only get the guarantee that the wine itself comes from France. Grapes can come from different regions and the standards of wine production are the least strict.

When a winery classifies its wines as Vin de France, it is not allowed to indicate the origin of the grapes. These are mainly French wines of inferior quality.

In rare cases, French winemakers prefer to undermine the system and produce a totally unique wine that does not respect the rules. These wines are downgraded as Vin de France. This is the scenario of the year 2015, when the producer of Grave Bordeaux, Liber Patter, used grapes from the region, which officially were not allowed to be used for Bordeaux wines. But the winery sold them for $5,500 a bottle!

French standard rate

Classification laws such as the AOC are part of what strengthens France’s reputation as a large and reliable wine producer.

And while there are no rules that say the AOC will always be your favorite, these rules have a huge impact on the way wines from other regions of the world work.

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