Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée

The designation Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), roughly translated to 'term of origin', is a certification granted to certain French wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products by a government bureau known as the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO). Under French law, it is illegal to manufacture and sell a product under one of the AOC-controlled names if it does not comply with the criteria of the AOC.

The controlled term of origin guarantees the following product criteria:

The origins of AOC date back to the 15th century, when Roquefort was regulated by a parliamentary decree. The AOC seal was created and mandated by French laws in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In 1990, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) was created to manage the administration of the process. Many other countries have based their controlled place name systems on AOC. See: All AOC products are identified by a seal, which is printed on the label or the rind (in the case of an AOC cheese). To prevent any possible misrepresentation, no part of an AOC name may be used on a label of a product not qualifying for that AOC. However, many producers are located in towns where the AOC is the name of the town, and thus are enjoined from listing anything more than a cryptic postal code.


Certain AOCs for wine are recognized as being superior to others. Typically these are variations on "cru," the French word for growth. Wines called "Grand Cru" are at the top of the quality hierarchy, with "premieres crus" one level below. Beneath these are simple named places. Depending on the region, a cru might be assigned to an estate or to a legally-defined vineyard area. While in theory a Grand Cru should be the finest expression of its site, it is generally a more accurate indicator of price than quality.

See also