The AOCs were established in the 1930s in a context where viticulture was terribly lacking in regulation. An AOC is a registered designation of origin. A product with the AOC label is a product whose all stages of production are carried out according to know-how recognised in a geographical area, which gives its characteristics to the product. The specifications of the AOCs are very strict. Winegrowers must comply with a large number of rules in order to maintain their registered designation of origin.
The AOCs define the production areas, set a maximum yield and winemaking techniques and authorise only certain grape varieties. The idea behind this label is to enhance the natural environment (soil, climate) through processes inherited from tradition and which make it possible to obtain an original, non-reproducible product, whose essential qualities are linked to the harvesting site.
Since the 1960s, some wines have been called 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 with 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 refers to a product whose characteristics are linked to the geographical location in which at least its production or processing takes place, under specific conditions. Various food products benefit from this label, such as meat, vegetables and fruits such as Périgord strawberries. There are 75 protected geographical indications for wine presented under a local name.
Wines of protected geographical indications have a more flexible specification than registered designations of origin, but must still meet certain conditions. The specifications are less specific but remain 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 depending on its geographical location. Nevertheless, the PGI grants more freedom to winegrowers in their choices. They are free to choose the grape varieties they wish to cultivate, their cultivation techniques and it is with these choices that they can stand out.
PGI wines are interesting because many of the local wine producers have specialised in varietal wines. Winegrowers have realized that varietal wines, a wine made from a single grape variety, are very popular depending on the variety and its popularity. In addition, they have the advantage of being able to indicate on the label the name of the variety often known internationally. (pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay, sauvignon...).
We could think that an IGP wine will be less good because its specifications are more flexible but these are only preconceived ideas. The grape variety, winemaking techniques, the terroir, these are all elements that contribute to a good or bad wine. Conversely, a wine with a registered designation of origin will not always be good. An appellation does not guarantee the taste of a product but guarantees its origin. To know which wine you like best, you have to test both!
Lou Dubois for Les Grappes