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Appellation d'Origine Contrá´lée

Often abbreviated to AOC, this is a classification enforced by the French Ministry of Agriculture on France"s most prestigious wines, eaux-de-vie, dairy and farmhouse products. The system was started on a small scale in 1919, but has expanded considerably. It basically guarantees that a product of quality has been produced within a specified region following established methods of production.

For example to produce wine of AOC standard, the specific grape types used, how many bottles could be produced per hectare and the geographical position of the vineyard would all be scrutinised. At the time of writing there are 36 AOC cheeses - the most recent additions being Tomme de Savoie and Valençay. AOC laws cover about 23% of French wine production, a further 5% by V.D.Q.S - while the remainder is lumped together as vins de table, meaning generally cheap table wines of no distinction.

Cheese restrictions are similarly tough, and for all products, any violation is liable to prosecution, and penalties consist of imprisonment of 3 months to a year plus a fine!

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