On the blogby Alfred
October 31 2019

“Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée” (AOC)

by Sébastien Légasse

Burgundy is a good example of complexity in terms of its appellation system. It is based on the quality of the parcels where the vines grow. This region contains 84 total “Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée” (AOC).  

The regional appellations, which make up half of the production, generally come from flat land or are located on the lower slopes. These include the AOC Bourgogne, Crémant de Bourgogne and Mâcon. For some of you, you will witness the addition of an extra geographical name as with Bourgogne Côte d’Or, which will have the effect of indicating a restricted territory from which the grapes originate. Sometimes, wines are downgraded from a higher level and may even be part of the classified regional production. This principle can be witnessed when the quantity of grapes produced exceeds the authorized standards or if the producer considers that the quality of production does not meet the required standards.

The village or communal appellations are named according to their commune of origin and there are 44 AOCs belonging to this more qualitative level. You can recognize them by the name of the village on the label, as with Meursault or Gevrey-Chambertin. Sometimes, in addition to the name of the commune, the Premier Cru mention is also present. This adds more requirements for the grapes produced, in particular regarding the geographical delimitation and the yield, which represents the quantity of grapes produced per hectare. The smaller the yield, the more concentrated the juice is, which has a direct influence on the quality of the product and, obviously, on the price of the wine.  

At the top of the Burgundy AOCs, the Grands Crus, which represent 1% of the production.  On the labels, only the name of the Climat, this very precise parcel that has been named for centuries, is present. The famous Chambertin, Echezeaux and Montrachet alongside the Romanée-Conti come to mind. Although these fine wines shine internationally and make us dream, it is obvious that nowadays, these superb wines are less and less affordable for wine enthusiasts.  

It must be said that wine production is particularly expensive. The cost of land is very prohibitive, especially if you are in a well-known region such as Burgundy. For established vineyards, the harvest period is generally the largest expense related to grape production, especially if harvesting is done manually. This can be done for quality reasons, or because the terrain makes mechanization impossible. On the winemaking side, all the installations, tanks and barrels, can become expensive very quickly. This is without omitting to count the time when the wine must age before its commercialization. The regulations associated with the appellation will usually specify the minimum aging time in vats and bottles. A strong demand for specific products or regions is also another lever that will influence the selling price of the wine.

The winegrower, therefore, always hopes that his season will be optimal so that his production can combine quality and quantity!

Here are 3 suggestions covering regional AOCs, villages and Grand Crus:

Louis Latour Bourgogne Chardonnay

White wine, 750 ml

Code SAQ : 00055533 | Regular price : 19,10 $

Domaine Chevalier Père & Fils Côte-de-Nuits-Villages 2016

Red wine, 750 ml

Code SAQ : 12899869  | Regular price : 46,75 $

Chanson Chablis Les Preuses Grand Cru 2016

White wine, 750 ml

Code SAQ : 13967587  | Regular price : 99,25 $

AlfredThe sommeliers community in your pocket.

Begin your Alfred journey today: Sign Up