In the Ideal Wine Company’s opinion, every wine enthusiast should know what the word “appellation” means. This seemingly insignificant, industry-specific term is the key to understanding the composition of your favourite tipple.
Definition of “appellation”
The Free Dictionary defines an “appellation (wine)” as “a protected name under which a wine may be sold, indicating that the grapes used are of a specific kind from a specific district.” Essentially this means that “appellation” is a term the wine making industry uses to refer to the location a particular bottle was produced.
Vineyard classification system
In reality it’s so much more. It’s also a vineyard classification system used by many governments across the world e.g. France’s “appellation d’origine contrôlée” system. This is designed to define the rules and regulations of a wine’s production (e.g. the geographical boundaries the vintage must be made in), as well as the official use of its name, to assure the quality and authenticity of the vintage.
The most obvious example is Champagne. The sparkling wine was granted “appellation d’origine contrôlée” status by France’s official wine-regulator, the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, in 1936. This designation marked the geographical boundaries, rules and regulations wine-makers must adhere to if they want to label their product a “Champagne.”
This means that the appellation of a wine can be used as a “grape index” to determine which grapes it was made from. This is especially common in France, where wine-makers often refer to their product by its appellation without listing its grape varietals.
Let’s use the Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1978, which you can buy from Ideal Wine Company, as an example. As is tradition with many Bordeaux wines, the vintage doesn’t list its grapes varietals. However if you look at its label you’ll discover it’s a “Paulliac,” meaning it’s a red wine that was been produced according to the rules and regulations that govern the “Paulliac appellation.” This means that the Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1978 contains grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenere and Petit Verdo.
This is why it’s vital that wine enthusiasts know what the word “appellation” means. A wine’s appellation can tell you about how it was made, where it was made and what it was made from; all factors that allow you to determine the quality of the final product.