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AOC Champagne - What is an appellation d'origine contrôlée?


What is an appellation d'origine contrôlée?

An appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) is a sign of quality and origin (SIQO). It designates a product whose authenticity, quality and typicality are guaranteed by two factors:

  • its geographical origin: an AOC can only be produced in a delimited territory based on historical, geological and climatic characteristics;
  • its production method: an AOC is produced according to specific production conditions, defined by specifications (grape varieties, cultivation practices, harvesting, vinification, ageing, etc.)

Appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) in the wine sector were created by the decree-law of July 30, 1935. At the same time, this decree established the Comité national des appellations d'origine de vins et eaux de vie, which became the Institut national des appellations d'origine des vins et eaux de vie (INAO) on July 16, 1947. More broadly speaking, AOCs originated in the fight against fraud and usurpation, which animated several major wine-producing regions throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed, wine merchants and producers wanted to guarantee the origin of the grapes and wines they produced, in order to put an end to wines of poor quality or of foreign origin marketed under the name of reputed wines. On August 1, 1905, the law "sur les fraudes et falsifications en matière de produits ou de services" was enacted, the first in a long series of provisions designed to protect appellations of origin.

The AOC Champagne officially came into being with the decree of June 29, 1936. Its geographical area covers 5 départements, i.e. 635 communes where champagne production is authorized. Of these, 319 have the right to plant vines, for a total of 35,000 classified hectares. A procedure to revise the delimitation of this geographical area was initiated in 2003 by the INAO, at the request of the SGV, and should be completed around 2018-2020.

How does an appellation d'origine contrôlée work?

The foundations and existence of an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) rely on three bodies (a guardian, a manager and an inspector) and two tools (a specification and an inspection plan).

Three bodies :

  • The Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO) is responsible for the overall management of SIQO (quality and origin identification signs), of which AOCs are a part. The INAO recognizes an AOC and defines how it operates: delimitation of its territory, recognition of its Organismes de défense et de gestion (ODG) and Organisme d'inspection (OI), validation of the specifications and inspection plan, etc. In short, the INAO is, in a way, the guardian of the appellation d'origine contrôlée, since it is the bearer of the system and guarantor of its smooth operation.

  • The Organisme de défense et de gestion (ODG) is the appellation's manager. Recognized by the INAO, the ODG has three main missions: management, control and defense of the appellation. Thus, the ODG:
    - draws up the specifications and contributes to their application,
    - proposes the inspection body and participates in the drafting of the inspection plan,
    - carries out part of the control (educational and non-sanctioning) of operators,
    - contributes to the preservation and enhancement of the terroirs, local traditions, know-how and products derived from them,
    - acts to defend and protect the name, the product and the terroir.

    In Champagne, the Syndicat Général des Vignerons has been recognized by the INAO as an Organisme de Défense et de Gestion des AOC Champagne et Coteaux Champenois. It should be noted that the SGV was previously the Syndicat de Défense of these same appellations, and was therefore responsible for a large proportion of the missions now assigned to the ODGs. Another part of these missions was carried out by the CIVC
  • The inspection body (OI) is the controller. Proposed by the ODG, it is approved by the INAO. This body draws up an inspection plan for each specification, in consultation with the ODG. It is on the basis of this inspection plan that the IO carries out controls on Champagne operators. In Champagne, the inspection body is the Association d'inspection des appellations de la Champagne (AIDAC). Approved on July 1, 2008, it inspects the appellations Champagne (AOC), Coteaux champenois (AOC), Rosé des Riceys (AOC), Marc de Champagne (Regulated Appellation of Origin) and Eaux-de-vie de vin de la Marne (Regulated Appellation of Origin).

Two tools:

  • Specifications define the conditions under which an appellation must be produced. Drawn up by the ODG and validated by the INAO, it describes all the characteristics and minimum rules that the operator must respect in order to benefit from the appellation in question: appellation name, vintage indication, product color, geographical area, grape varieties, vineyard management methods, cultivation practices, harvesting, grape maturity, yields, pressing, vinification, bottling, aging period, disgorging, labeling, etc.
  • The inspection plan specifies all the procedures for organizing the control. For each production condition defined in the appellation's specifications, the inspection plan describes the frequency and methods of control, as well as the penalties for non-compliance. The inspection plan is drawn up by the inspection body, in consultation with the ODG, and validated by the INAO.

AOC Champagne

Unique and the envy of the world, AOC Champagne flourishes in an exceptional terroir. Discover the characteristics of our AOC.

In our appellation zone, 4 major regions stand out for their personality and dominant grape varieties:

  • Montagne de Reims
  • Marne Valley
  • Côte des Blancs
  • Côte des Bar et Montgueux

AOC Champagne map