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The Appellation System in France


After a series of devastating plant diseases and insect problems (mostly Phylloxera) in the late 1800's, the French vineyard owners were replanting vineyards and rebuilding their business in the early 1900's.  The shortage of wine at the time created tempting conditions for fraud.  Much money could be made by bringing in wine from other areas and claiming it was from a premium region like Burgundy or areas of the Rhone.

By the early 1920's, there was a movement to create laws to protect consumers and to guarantee the quality of wines from certain areas.  Chateauneuf du Pape in the Rhone river valley was the first to create a set of rules among growers in the region.  

The rules set up by the growers defined the area that could produce Chateauneuf du Pape.  They also listed certain approved grapes for the region and how those grapes could be grown, harvested.  The maximum yield per hectare, the minimum alcohol level and the official sorting of grapes at harvest were all laid out in these rules.  The agreement in Chateauneuf du Pape became became the framework that the Appellation Controlee laws that were created later.

By 1936-1937, the National Institute for Appellations of Origin (INAO) was created and had enacted rules controlling the grape growing and wine production for all the key wine regions in France.

The Appellation Controlee laws defined the following standards for each production area:

Geographic limits of the production area.       

Density of planting                                     

Pruning style and standards.                         

Yields per hectare                                       

Mandatory tasting by a certification panel.     

Allowed grape varieties.

Trellis systems

Wine making techniques

Lab analysis standards

Vineyard practices.

The system has worked well in its guaranteeing quality of the wines in spite of the paper monster it has created.  It became the model for most other countries that have regulated their wine industry.