In the 1870s and 1880s, wine production around the world faced a global and almost fatal threat: phylloxera. A root-infesting pest that destroyed Vitis vinifera grape vines’ roots, especially susceptible to this form of plant lice, had left Europe’s vineyards in complete ruin. With the high demand for wine in France, replanting was hasty and disorganized, but still could not prevent some producers to take advantage of using artificial substitutes and pushing the boundaries of what they called wine.
This opportunism led the government to issue its first legal definition of wine in 1889, which was followed by numerous other decrees over the next two decades to attempt to reduce fraud.
Thus, the hallmark of the Wine Statute was the law of July 30th 1935, which formally created the system of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), distinguishing quality wine from ordinary table wine. This system specifically set out the areas of production, choice of grape varieties, minimum alcohol levels, growing methods, and winemaking techniques required for regions and their wines to carry the honoured AOC designation. Despite this regulation being based on the idea that “terroir” is the main element in producing wines (with deciding influence on their quality and typicity), the classification process was initially so slow, that by 1950 only 10% of French wine was labelled as AOC. However, an important expansion later took place in the 1960s that has led to more than 40% of today’s French wine to be classified under the AOC system.
In 2012 the system was revised and new regulations have been applied to wines bottled since. The main change is that there will be three classifications from now on (instead of four previously). While the higher-grade AOC wines have been renamed AOP, the category VDQS has been removed, the designation VDT (Vin de Table) has been renamed VDF (Vin de France), while VDP (Vin de Pays) has been changed into IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée).
Wine o’clock “Immaculate DRC” – Tuesday 6th June at 2PM on the dot (Swiss time)