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What is Appellation of Origin?

Regulations And Wine

Dennis Overstreet (Wine Expert) gives expert video advice on: What is Appellation of Origin?; Why is Champagne an Appellation of Origin?; What French wine classification terms should I know? and more...

What is Appellation of Origin?

An Appellation of Origin, or something that has to do with a D.O.C, means that there are restrictions which grapes can be grown, what can be done as far as additives. In California we have an abundance of sunshine, so we have a law that says you cannot add any type of sugar to increase a fermentation. In France, in certain areas, they have a lack of sunshine. So, they can add certain types of sugar to create a fermentation, but they say you cannot add acid because it is against the law, but at the very same time because of their climatic situation the grapes have higher acids. In California we can add acids, but we can't add sugars, so these laws are usually drawn up by financial interest or politicians. So, those are what the root of it is, but the Appellation of origin says this is what can be done in a certain place. It is like living in a community that says, "Listen everyone's house has to be so many feet from the sidewalk and they can not grow elm trees they have to grow pine trees."

Why is Champagne an Appellation of Origin?

Champagne as a name means that it has to come from a particular place. In other words, if you are an Angelino and you're here in Los Angeles, you're considered an Angelino. If you live behind the orange curtain over there in another county, well, you're considered something else.

What French wine classification terms should I know?

A Cuvée is a term which means "the blend." The Cuvée is, "I'm going to use Chardonnay and add a little Vigny in it," that's a Cuvée. A Cabernet and a little Cabernet Franc is a Cuvée. This is that, "We decided to start a winery and we wanted to blend some different things," that's the Cuvee. When it comes to a pedigree it's sort of a Grand Cru, a Premier Grand Cru, or just a Premier Cru. These are classes of wines. It's sort of like when we went through school or we became part of society, there was the A group that we kind of referred to in Hollywood, there was the B group, and there was the C group. They are all important groups and they can intermix but the A group really made a party happen. So, a Grand Cru is the very top of the French wine category. These are the Lafite Rothschilds, the Mouton Rothschilds. They are the Richebourgs, the Liesses. These are Grand Crus. The Premier Cru is the step down, and it's just A, B, C.

What is meant by 'first growth', 'second growth' and so on?

There's always the question of "What's a first growth? What's a second growth? What's a fifth growth?" And it's confusing. It used to be confusing even to myself, "Well, Fifth growth? Who grew that fifth?" Whatever. There was a classification in eighteen hundred and fifty-five by Napoleon, the Primo Wine, and it was based on the very same situation. Merchandising. Who sells for the top dollar? Who, if I invited to dinner tonight, if I had Barbra Streisand here, and Warren Beatty, who would come? Everyone would come. If I went to the next tier, and said, okay, I'm going to have Charlie Sheen here, well... Nicholas Cage, well... But if I had George Clooney, oh, that would be a first growth. The second growth would be the B group, the next growth would be the C. So, first, second, third, fourth, fifth. It all had to do with a financial thing, and drawing power.