Bordeaux Appellations and AOCs
There are over 60 appellations in the wine growing regions of Bordeaux, governed by the Bordeaux AOC’s, Appelations d’Origine Controlee. These governing authorities oversee a particular region, and impose strict requirements and restrictions that must be met throughout the wine production process.
What is an Appellation?
An appellation is defined as an administrative area, a region which does not necessarily conform to geographical borders, and has a set of rules and regulations that dictate the terms and conditions of wine production.
When dealing with fine wines, the Bordeaux appellation is far more important than the region of origin, as the appellation will reveal the most significant details about the wine. That is why fine wine labels will always detail the appellation of origin, as opposed to the geographical region.
The designated wine growing regions, or appellations, in Bordeaux are all regulated by the governing authority known as Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, or INAO. Wine estates and chateaux must adhere to the specific appellations laws as set by the INAO, or risk being declassified.
Wine Appellations Rules and Regulations
What are the requirements as set by Bordeaux Appellations d’Origine Controlees? There are numerous rules and regulations that dictate most aspects of the wine, namely:
- type and quantity of grape varieties
- color of wine
- ripeness of grapes (in terms of sugar content)
- alcohol content after fermentation
- residual sugar (if applicable)
- base yield
- minimum planting density
- maximum number of buds kept after pruning
- maturation requirement (if applicable), earliest sell date
- vineyard surface area
- average annual production
Regional Appellations in Bordeaux
The wine growing region of Bordeaux can be broken down into many sub regions, appellations and even sub appellations. The 60 appellations and general wine styles can be broadly grouped into 6-7 categories; there is no official classification in that sense – certain entities prefer 6 categories, while others use 7 subdivisions.
The 7 groups are defined by 5 red wine styles (based on region) and 2 white wine styles (based on sweetness), and are labeled as follows:
- Red Bordeaux
- Red Bordeaux Superieur
- Red Cotes de Bordeaux
- Red Libourne (Right Bank)
- Red Graves and Medoc (Left Bank)
- Dry White Wines
- Sweet White Wines
Each of these parent appellations may contain sub appellations, with further requirements and regulations regarding wine production.
The Bordeaux wine regions and appellations can be very confusing, especially for newcomers into the wine market. However, someone with deeper knowledge of the Bordeaux wine appellation system will be able to work out the wine quality, style, grape variety and selection, planting, pruning and maturing techniques, alcoholic content and other such details.
Hence, the appellation of origin (which should be clearly displayed on the bottle’s label) reveals much more than the source. When dealing with luxury investment wines, this information can be crucial in determining the value of the stock.
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