Wine is a very intricate and complex topic, at times making it complicated. But what I’m going to explain will help you become more aware and smarter when you’re shopping for wine – and that is the concept of appellations. An appellation is a legally defined geographical region where grapes are grown for wine. Each appellation has certain rules and regulations for its winemaking process. These rules are upheld under appellation laws to protect winemaking processes and maintain a certain quality of wine production. Appellations range in size, some have 1 vineyard and some have several. They also have different quality rankings in each appellation, but I won’t get into that right now because it'll make this a lot more complicated, so it's good to be aware of it.
The concept of appellations is more prominent and important for European wineries, especially in countries like France, Italy, and Spain. Think about Champagne, Prosecco, and Burgundy - these are all wines named after their appellation. In France alone, there are 360 appellations, so they definitely take this very seriously. In other countries around the globe, there are appellations but they aren’t as significant as European ones. Because there are fewer regulations, it’s allowed wineries outside of Europe in places like Australia, New Zealand, United States, and Chile to be much larger in size and able to mass-produce wines a lot more easily than in Europe.
Wines with appellations aren't necessarily better than non-appellation wines, it just gives credibility that a certain standard of winemaking has been met and the quality of the wine is guaranteed. So the next time you go wine shopping, be sure to keep an eye out for wine appellations and appellation laws listed on the labels.
Here are the most popular wine appellations:
France: Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais,
Italy: Soave, Barolo, Chianti
Spain: Sherry, Cava
Portugal: Port, Madeira
Here’s a list of appellation laws around the world:
France: AOC/AOP - Appellation d'origine contrôlée
Italy: DOC/DOG - Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Spain: DO/DOP - Denominación de origen protegida
Germany: VDP - Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter
Portugal: DOC - Denominação de Origem Controlada
Canada: VQA - Vintners Quality Alliance
Australia: AGI - Australian Geographical Indications
Argentina: DO - Denominación de origen
United States: AVA - American Viticultural Area
South Africa: WO - Wine of Origin