Faire la différence entre cépage et appellation

Differentiate between grape variety and appellation

A wine lover who seeks to perfect his knowledge of oenology quickly finds himself confronted with many very specific terms. Among them, the grape variety and the name of a wine can cause confusion, although they do not mean the same thing. Find out how to tell the difference between grape variety and appellation .

What is an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC)?

Referring to the notion of terroir , an appellation designates all products which are produced entirely in the same geographical area, and according to recognized know-how. It is these characteristics that give all the specificity of a labeled product. The AOC then concerns all kinds of products, such as meat, but also wine.

To obtain an appellation for one of his wines, the winemaker must then respect strict specifications. This varies according to the wine-growing region of the appellation , and it defines the authorized techniques, from the choice of grape variety to viticulture methods, including the winemaking technique, aging and bottling method. The designation request must then be made to the INAO (National Institute of Origin and Quality), which verifies compliance with the conditions of attribution.

The controlled designation of origin has long been the only designation recognized in France. Since 2009, the designation has become European, taking the name protected designation of origin (PDO) . Thus, a wine with an AOP necessarily has an AOC. The winemaker is then free to mention the appellation of his choice on the label of the wine bottle.

Please note, however, that the attribution of an appellation in no way guarantees the quality of the wine.

The main appellations of France

France has no fewer than 13 wine regions and more than 380 appellations . It is therefore difficult to make a precise enumeration. Here are the main appellations of each wine region.

  • Alsace: AOC Alsace, AOC Alsace Grand Cru, AOC Crémant d’Alsace;
  • Beaujolais: AOC Beaujolais, AOC Juliénas, AOC Morgon, AOC Chiroubles...;
  • Bordeaux: AOC Graves, AOC Médoc, AOC Saint-Émilion, AOC Sauternes...;
  • Burgundy: AOC Chablis, AOC Pommard, AOC Chassagne-Montrachet, AOC Pouilly-Fuissé, AOC Saint-Véran...;
  • Champagne: AOC Champagne, AOC Coteaux Champenois;
  • Corsica: AOC Calvi, AOC Patrimonio, AOC Ajaccio...;
  • Jura: AOC Côtes-du-Jura, AOC Arbois...;
  • Languedoc-Roussillon: AOC Corbières, AOC Rivesaltes, AOC Minervois, AOC Fitou, AOC Saint-Chinian;
  • Provence: AOC Côtes-de-Provence , AOC Bandol, AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, AOC Cassis...;
  • Savoie: AOC Bugey, AOC Seyssel, AOC Vin-de-Savoie...;
  • South-West: AOC Cahors, AOC Gaillac, AOC Monbazillac, AOC Bergerac...;
  • Loire Valley: AOC Cabernet-d'Anjou, AOC Sancerre, AOC Bourgueil, AOC Muscadet...;
  • Rhône Valley: AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, AOC Côtes Rôtie, AOC Gigondas, AOC Côtes-du-Rhône...

What is a varietal ?

The vine cultivated in France and around the world for table grapes or wine grapes has always come from two species of vine, the most important of which in Europe is Vitis Viniféra . The same species of vine can then produce different grape varieties, in other words, vine varieties .

We then distinguish between table grape varieties (Alphonse Lavallée, Italia, Chasselas, etc.) and wine grape varieties , for making wine (merlot, syrah, grenache, etc.).

Each grape variety is distinguished by the size and shape of its berries and leaves, as well as its color. We then find white grape varieties and black grape varieties , whose taste and taste characteristics make all the particularity of the wines produced.

The study of grape varieties is called ampelography.

The main grape varieties of France

The vineyards of France cultivate more than 200 different grape varieties , of which here are the main ones:

  • Merlot (112,000 ha);
  • Ugni blanc (85,000 ha);
  • Grenache noir (81,100 ha);
  • Syrah (64,000 ha);
  • Chardonnay (50,600 ha);
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (48,100 ha);
  • Cabernet franc (34,000 ha);
  • Carignan (32,700 ha);
  • Pinot noir (32,300 ha);
  • Sauvignon blanc (30,000 ha);
  • Gamay (25,700 ha);
  • Cinsault (18,200 ha).

The difference between the grape varieties and the appellations of French wines no longer hold any secrets for you. All you have to do is taste different vintages of different grape varieties and appellations to decipher all the subtleties. And why not start your wine tour of France by stopping in Provence, at the Château de Berne?


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