The Range of French Wine
The scale of French wine
Regulating French Wine
Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC)
Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure (VDQS)
Vins de Pays
Vins de Tables
Special Wines
Reading a French Wine Label
The Wine Trade In France
The Language Of France
The Essentials Of France
AOC Regulations
Protecting The Appellations

Once an AOC has been defined - the boundaries drawn, and unsuitable land excluded - further rules are set. These specify which grapes can be grown, how much wine can be made, what strength it must reach and (some-times) not exceed. The permitted grape varieties are those in use in the area when the AOC was drawn up: some are varietal monocultures, oth-ers allow a broad choice. Rhone reds from Cornas must be 100% Syrah, whereas at Chateauneuf, down the valley, no fewer than 13 different grapes can be used.

Restrictions on yield are the most debated of the AOC rules. Each AOC has its maximum, expressed as hectoliters of wine per hectare of vine-yard (abbreviated normally to hl/ha). A small, prestige AOC will have a lower yield than a more widespread one. This basic yield can be exceeded if the AOC authorities permit it, tak-ing into account the conditions of the vintage. This gives the annual yield or rendement annuel. In rare cases this can be below the basic yield.

In addition, a producer can apply for a permit to make more wine: per-haps 20% more. To get this permit he must submit his wine for tasting, and he cannot (as in the past) declare surplus wine as vin de table - it must be sent for distillation. It can be seen that the base yield - that is, the fig-ure normally quoted as the maxi-mum for a given AOC - may be exceeded by a large proportion if the officials of the INAO concur.

In some areas production tech-niques form part of the AOC. Cham-pagne is an example, with detailed regulations about pressing the grapes and maturing the wine.

The AOC rules also regulate details such as density of vines planted per hectare, chaptalization, the use of fertilizers, pruning tech-niques and the paperwork necessary to monitor the movement of wine.

It is this last aspect that the authorities find hardest to control. Each batch of wine is recorded, and checks are made to correlate vine-yard size with the amount of wine produced from it. But once the wine leaves the producer, it is very hard to keep track of every batch.

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