According to the French wine laws, there are four possible ranks or categories which a wine can fall into. You can determine the ranking for a French wine by looking on the label for the designation that it has. The four designated tiers are as follows, from the highest rank to the lowest:
- Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) or shortened to Appellation Controlee (AC):
This is France’s highest rank for wine. On the label the place of origin will usually appear between the two French words, e.g. Appellation Bordeaux Controlee.
- Vin Delimite de Qualite Superieure (VDQS):
This is the smallest category for ranking wines, and is usually a temporary rank for wines that can potentially move up to the highest category. On the label the term will appear directly below the name of the wine.
- Vin de Pays:
This category has the meaning of being a country wine. On the label this term is always followed by a place of origin, such as Vin de Pays Pommard. This indicates where the grapes were grown. This category is somewhat similar to the regions that make up the American Viticulture Areas.
- Vin de Table:
The grapes in this category can come from anywhere in France, and there are very few regulations for this ranking. By law these wines cannot indicate a grape variety or vintage. The wines that fall into this category are usually consumed locally.
The wine ranking system that France has instituted is now the model for the European Union wine laws. The term Superieur or Superieure may also be added to the names of some general AOC wines. This designation basically requires a higher minimum alcohol level, usually one point higher than the basic designation.
Unless you are an expert in French geography, understanding a French wine label can be difficult. Hopefully some of the information that I have blogged about in the last three blogs will be a help to you in choosing a bottle of French wine.