In wine parlance
, an appellation is a general category
of wine. Often, the use of appellations is governed
by the country
that issues them, and are used to group wine
s by geographic origin
, alcohol content, grape
In France, there are four tiers of appellations, with appellation d'origine contrôlée being the highest and best known (this is often abbreviated AC or AOC). The system goes:
- Appellation controlee: The best; in general, anyway.
- "Vins delimite, qualite superieur" (VDQS): You don't see a lot of these in the US, and the designation is being phased out.
- Vins de pays: These are often marketed by grape variety and can offer good value if you know what to look
for. A good example is the 1998 Triennes Viognier I reviewed. A bad example is the 1997 HCCS Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Vins de table: "Table wines"--which are the lowest of the low (probably grown in someone's backyard and
fermented in a cellar). Do NOT spend good money on a French vin de table.
The similar Italian system of denominazione d'origine controllata or DOC fulfills the same function, though it tends to be somewhat more confusing:
- DOCG, or denominazione d'origine controllata i garantita. These are the most storied of Italian wines, though individual bottles, as always, may be crappy.
- "Straight" DOC
- IGT: "Indicazione geografica tipica" wines are not crappy wines, but indicate that the wine is a proprietary blend of the winery's, though it does not conform to any of the traditional DOC standards. These can be great wines, such as the Super Tuscans often are. Before this designation was introduced, many superlative wines had to be labeled as vino di tavolas, to their detriment.
- Vino di Tavola: Purple dishwater. (Of course, there are exceptions: one of my traditional favorites, 1994 Notarpanaro Taurino is a vino di tavola....)
The U.S. system is a little different: whereas European appelations may focus on many differnt style factors, American wine is labeled largely on the bases of where the grapes were grown (known as the American Viticultural Area or AVA) and what type of grapes are in the wine. If a California wine labeled as a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, you can be assured that the wine is at least 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, and that 85% of the grapes used in the wine were grown in Napa Valley.
The end result of all this for the wine drinker is that it's possible to make reasonable apples-to-apples comparisons of wines from different producers, but which are of the same appellation.
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