Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC), which translates as 'controlled designation of origin', is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wine, cheese and other agricultural products, all under the control of the Government Bureau 'Institut National des Appellations d'Origine' - (INAO).
The French system of appellations, began in the 1930's and is considered the wine world's first standard. To carry an appellation in this system, a wine must follow strict rules describing; the area the grapes are grown, the grape varietals used, their level of ripeness, the minimum alcohol strength, vineyard yields and the methods used in growing the grapes, vine density limits and the making, ageing of the wine.

 

There are hundred's of French geographically defined appellations, that can cover entire regions, individual villages or even specific vineyards, AOC's can vary dramatically in size.

'The premise of the AOC - is based on the concept of terroir.' - (their sense of place)

A meticulous set of clearly defined standards, stress that AOC wines will be produced in a consistent and traditional manner with ingredients from specifically classified producers in designated geographical areas. The products must further be aged at least partially in the respective designated area of production.
AOC products can be identified by a unique seal, which is printed on the wine label. This strict label policy can lead to confusion, especially in cases where towns share names with appellations. While the process of label approval is enforced to the nth degree, the quality control for the wine in the bottle is much less strict. While a blind taster must approve the wine for it to receive AOC classification, this tasting often occurs before the product is even bottled, and by a local expert who may well have ties to the winery. Even if the taster is objective, the wine sample may not be representative of the final product, and there is almost no way to verify that a finished bottled wine is the same as the original AOC sample.