AOCs were introduced in the 1930s in a context where viticulture was terribly unregulated. An AOC is an appellation d'origine contrôlée. A product with the AOC label is a product in which all the production stages are carried out according to a know-how recognised in a geographical area, which gives the product its characteristics. The AOC specifications are very strict. Winegrowers must respect a large number of rules in order to keep their appellation d'origine contrôlée.
AOCs delimit production areas, set maximum yields and winemaking techniques and authorise only certain grape varieties. The idea behind this label is to enhance the natural environment (soil, climate) by means of processes inherited from tradition and which make it possible to obtain an original, non-reproducible product whose essential qualities are linked to the place of harvesting.
Since the 1960s, some wines have had the name "vin de pays" but today this category of wine no longer exists. A PGI is a protected geographical indication. This indication was introduced by European regulations in 1992 and initially concerned only specific food products bearing a geographical name and linked to their geographical origin. Since 2009 this has been extended to wines that were considered as vins de pays.
A PGI designates a product whose characteristics are linked to the geographical place where at least its production or processing takes place, according to well-defined conditions. Various food products benefit from this label, meats, vegetables, or fruits such as strawberries from the Périgord for example. There are 75 protected geographical indications for wine presented under a local name.
Wines with protected geographical indications have a more flexible specification than those with registered designations of origin, but still have to meet certain conditions. The specifications are less specific but are still controlled by an independent body. For example, a wine with a protected geographical indication must have a maximum yield per hectare whether it is a white, red or rosé wine. There must also be a minimum alcohol content in the wine according to its geographical origin. Nevertheless, the PGI grants more freedom to the winegrowers in their choices. They are free to choose the grape varieties they wish to grow, their growing techniques and it is with these choices that they can stand out.
PGI wines are interesting because many local wine producers have specialized in varietal wines. Winemakers have come to realize that varietal wines, a wine made from a single grape variety, are very popular depending on the grape variety and its popularity. Moreover, they have the advantage of being able to indicate on the label the name of the variety that is often known internationally. (pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay, sauvignon...).
We might think that a PGI wine will be less good because its specifications are more flexible, but these are just preconceived ideas. The grape variety, the winemaking techniques, the terroir, these are all elements that contribute to a good wine or not. Reciprocally, a wine with an appellation d'origine contrôlée will not always be good. An appellation does not guarantee the taste of a product but guarantees its origin. To find out which wine you like best, you have to test both!
Lou Dubois for Les Grappes