France is still regarded by many as the home of fine wine and today produces around 60 million hectolitres of wine every year.
Yet, in recent times, France has lost out because of its strict wine making laws, to more flexible wine producing countries and the result has been a decline in exports compared to other ‘new world’ wine producing countries such as Australia and South Africa.
Consumers seem to be moving towards more friendly ‘new world’ labelling, such as making the grape variety clear on the label, something that the French have never done. But despite some critics saying that France has not moved with the times, it is fair to say that it still produces some of the best wines in the world and this is partly down to its rigid classification systems.
French wine classifications
Appelation d’Origine Controlee (AC or AOC) is the highest attainment for French wine. The production requirements vary from region to region but most tend to cover the following points: Wine production is restricted to a specific area Only certain grapes are permitted Maximum/minimum yields Minimum alcohol levels Strict viticulture and vinification practices.
One level down from AOC is VDSQ – similar rules apply but the laws governing yields and grape varieties are usually less strict.
Vin de Pays is the next level down and a wine must adhere to four rules to be classed as a Vin de Pays: 1. Area of production
2. Grapes used
3. Yield limitations (usually 90 hl/ha)
4. Minimum alcohol levels
After Vin de Pays comes Vin de Table. This can be produced anywhere in the country and there are no restrictions on grape varieties used.
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