How understanding AOC & AVA can help you buy a good bottle of wine?
Updated: Aug 15, 2022
Which one should I take home? Should I buy this one, it has a pretty label, or this one it says Napa on it?
Without talking about grape varietals, food pairings…etc. First I would like to pinpoint few little details that will help you pick a good bottle of wine without having to be an expert. In my experience I saw hundreds of people standing in front of the wine aisle and staring for a long time to pick a bottle of wine. Too many Cabernets, Merlots, Pinot noir….etc. Which one should I take home? Should I buy this one, it has a pretty label, or this one it says Napa on it? Well, France cannot lay claim to be the birth place of wine production but it has for several centuries been a dominant force in the world of wine. The French also pioneered appellation wine law, which is the legislative model that has been widely copied throughout the world. Appellation came about in response to the flood of fraudulent and adulterated wines that were available in France during the 19th century (Phylloxera crisis). To protect the regions reputation and the character of their wines. Appellation Law (AOC) established a very rigorous set of rules controlling viticulture and vinification. Holding wine makers to high standards to produce quality wines. Appellation laws cover the following area in varying degrees: Production Area; Permitted vine varieties; Ripeness and alcohol strength; viticulture practices; yields and winemaking practices. Under French law, it is illegal to manufacture and sell a product under one of the AOC-controlled geographical indications if it does not comply with the criteria of the AOC. AOC products can be identified by a seal, which is printed on the label in wines, and with cheeses, on the rind to prevent any possible misrepresentation. We do have a similar system in the USA called AVA (American Viticulture Area) that is quite similar to the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlé). Unlike most European wine appellations of origin, an AVA specifies only a geographical location from which at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must have been grown. Let me show you how to read the back labels of American Wines, you’ll find these words: Vinted/Cellared and Bottled By: meaning that a minimum of 10% of the wine was fermented at the winery. In general, this may infer a lesser quality wine Produced and bottled By: This indicates that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled a minimum of 75% of the wine in this bottle. It does not mean that the winery grew the grapes used in the wine Estate bottled: means that 100% of the wine came from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by the winery, located in the viticulture area. The winery then crushes and ferments the grapes, finishes, ages, processes and bottles the wine in one continuous operation. Lots of wineries outsource their grapes and I am not saying that some of them don’t makes fantastic wines, but most of them mass produce. Those mass produced products are everywhere from Binny’s to Walmart to trader Joe’s to Worlds Market to your neighborhood grocery store. I hope this will help you get an understanding about what’s inside the bottle. For any questions I am always available to help. Cheers!