You may have noticed the acronym AOC on the labels of rather a lot of French wines. Here’s a quick outline of what it means.
In English – “Controlled designation of origin”
The principle is that a wine with an AOC classification has a guarantee of quality and origin, and the winemaker has strict guidelines to follow in order to obtain the classification.
AOCs vary massively in size. Some can cover large areas with a variety of climate and soil characteristics, others are small and incredibly uniform.
The Côtes du Rhône AOC covers about 400 square kilometres of land. Within its area is one of the smallest AOCs, Château-Grillet, which occupies less than 4 hectares (about 10 acres) of land.
We must remember though, a wine that doesn’t carry an AOC classification is not necessarily of lesser quality, (although that is what the AOC classification system was brought in to regulate), it can mean that the winemaker simply hasn’t the desire to jump through all the hoops required to obtain the classification.
I know a winemaker who’s AOC states that there must be zero irrigation of the vines, but he knows his wine, which is jolly good, and he knows that a very small amount of irrigation leads to much better results. So why wouldn’t you?