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French Wine Classifications: Set your standard higher

How do you know if you’re getting a quality French wine? Checking the label and knowing classifications before you hit the wine shop helps decipher the grade of the wine you’re about to sip.

Think of the classifications like a triangle. At the top, the supreme- AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Then there’s IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée)…stepping it up a notch. And at the bottom you have ‘Vin de France’- there’s a lot of it and it’s the bedrock of French wine.

Let’s break it down a bit…

AOC- Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée

  • AOC is thee top-tier of French wine classifications. The best of the best.

  • There are 363 AOC's in France. Vitners work their entire lifetime to label their wines ‘AOC’.

  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first AOC! I just tried this wine for the first time and it was one of the best tasting experiences of my life. Big body, high alcohol…be careful ;)

  • Within the AOC classification, there are specific classifications on where and how the wine was made. Like Italy, France takes their wine extremely serious. It’s a matter of preserving tradition. These rules have been set for decades.

    • Least to most noteable:

      • Regional: A region that produces noteworthy wines. (reaching…lol)

      • Sub-Regional: A specialized region.

      • Commune/Village: Vineyards around a specific commune or village.

      • Grand Cru: “Premiere Grand Cru Classe” “Grand Cru”. “Cru” means growth. Refers to regions or wineries that have “Cru” status. Thee absolute best of the best, with the most attention to quality.


IGP-Indication Géographique Protégée

  • Wines labeled 'IGP' have a more relaxed set of standards. As you make your way down the triangle, the vitners are able to make wines with less rules enforced!

  • More relaxed set of standards = more creativity in grape growing and winemaking, more varietals allowed.

  • IGP lists 74 geographical areas and 150 unique designations.

  • Main idea of IGP: usually a larger area (not as prestigious as an AOC region) and fewer regulations.

Vin de France

  • The lowest standard of French wine.

  • Vin de France refers to basic French table wine. Comparable to a wine you would buy at your local neighborhood winery. These wines have no specific region assigned to it. (Region is not noteworthy)

  • Some French wineries will choose to be in the Vin de France classification, which gives them complete freedom to and not follow ANY rules. This way they can take their creativity to a different level and choose to produce wines very out of the box.

My French wine reccomendations:

1. Châteauneuf-du-Pape...just trust me.

2. Beaujolais...fruity, easy sipper.

3. Chenin Blanc from Vouvray.

4. A Chablis from Côtes d’Auxerre.

Helpful French Wine links:


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