I thought I’d have a stab at starting a jargon buster section as I occasionally get asked about certain phrases that get used in the wine world that aren’t necessarily bandied around in everyday language.
This month I’ve gone for Appellation (or AOC which stands for Appellation d’origine controlee) and AVA.
In wine parlance these both roughly equate to where a wine comes from but also relate to the set of rules that apply to the wine of that area. In France these rules can be rigorous and onerous and the failure to comply can result in serious financial consequences. The French version was formed by the Institut National des Appellation d’Origine (the INAO) in 1935 laying down the initial set of laws relating to the wine making process in France, however some areas such as Champagne had their own self-enforced rules in place prior to that. Wines from France will have the statement on the label Appellation (then the area the wine comes from) Controlee clearly stated, showing it’s a wine from that area. For example, the following wine is from Cote Rotie from the Rhone and it clearly states this on the label.
This in theory should give some semblance of trust that the wine is of a certain quality. Things affected by the rules of the appellation (or area) range from the production volume, minimum alcohol level and how the wines are classified (premier crus, grand crus) etc
AVA stands for American Viticultural Area and again relates to the specific region that grapes are grown in with the first designated area being defined in 1980. Unlike Burgundy for example there is no restriction on the type of grapes that can be grown in an AVA but at least 85% must come from the area mentioned on the label.
In Italy they have 3 classifications. These are DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) which tends to be the wines at the top of the tree, DOC (the above without the e Garantita bit) where the rules, whilst still stringent, are a little more relaxed on area and grapes used and IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica). This was brought in for growers who couldn’t or wouldn’t meet the DOC or DOCG rules. You may assume that these wines would be inferior but that’s far from the truth. Some of Italy’s greatest and most expensive wines fall into this category. For example, Redigaffi from Tua Rita in Tuscany which costs in the region of £200 a bottle is an IGT as it uses grapes that are outside those permitted by the Tuscan DOC regulations.
In essence, all of the above refer you to a geographic area where the grapes or the majority of them come from and attempt to steer the consumer to a product they can identify with.