In France, geography, or terroir, drives organization of their wine which contrasts with New World countries where grape variety drives organization. In the broadest sense, there are twelve regions that produce most of the wine in France. Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Champagne, the Vallée de la Loire and, now, with the rapid growth in rose imports, Provence are probably the most familiar regions to the average person outside of France. The Vallée du Rhône is increasingly well-known and produces, after Bordeaux, more Appellation Contrôlée wine than any other region.
Beaujolais, often considered part of Burgundy, is now more familiar to occasional wine drinkers due to its wildly successful Beaujolais Nouveau campaign. In terms of sheer quantity, Languedoc-Roussillon, is a familiar name. Other principal wine regions include Alsace, Jura, Savoie, and the Sud-Ouest.
Provence WineZine focuses on wines from the Provence region and the Southern district of the Rhône Valley region, both of which fall into the administrative region of Provence-Alps-Côtes d’Azur (PACA).
Each of the major wine regions is further divided in to appellations. There are over 350 wine appellations that have been designated by the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (previously called Institut National des Appellations d’Origine and still identified as INAO), a branch of the French Ministry of Agriculture. Since the 1930s, these appellations were officially referred to as an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) or “controlled designations of origin.”
Now, as part of the transition (beginning in 2012) into a system that will be used throughout the European Union, AOC wines will be referred to as Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) wines. As before, wines produced in a particular AOP/AOC must adhere to strict laws governing the geographical origin, production (including the varieties and percentages of grapes used), quality, and style of wine. (The same organization also grants appellation status to other agricultural products such as cheese, butter, meat, honey, and lavender.)
The French system of classifying wine quality, a model for the rest of the world for decades and the basis of the system adopted by the EU, now has three tiers of quality into which wines are placed:
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