Are Wine Classifications Justified or Just Fool Snobbery?

Are Wine Classifications Justified or Just Fool Snobbery?

The wine business is full of enough intimidation factors without having to add more distinctions to complicate matters even more.  Wine consultants and experts know the genealogy of where a lot of the wine classifications came from and why they exist today.

In 1855, Napolean III created the AOC, appelation d’origine controlee or “controlled designation of origin” which pertains to certain agricultural products, such as wine, cheeses, butters, and others.  The origins of AOC came about from an expose where a number of different wines were gathered and this was an attempt to designate the Bordeaux based on regional breakdown.  Paullaic, Margaux, and Haut Medoc  are the main Bordeaux that are delineated by the Left Bank and Right Bank of the River Seine.  The Left Bank is where Merlots are grown and The Right Bank is where Cabernet Sauvignons are grown.


1411 is the year when principles of AOC were first enacted when Roquefort was regulated and mandated into law by French parliament.  It was not however until 1905 that official French law on “viticultural designations” was born with 1919 as the official date of the first law passed and enacted for The Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin.  Then in 1935, the INAO, Institut National des Appelations d’Origine was created to oversee the processing of wines, as a branch of the French Ministry of Agriculture.  Over time, the INAO regulated more than just wines in the agricultural sectors with its official seal created and enforced in the 1950’s, ‘60’s, and ‘70’s.


Other countries have followed suit namely Italy with the DOC and its DOCG and Spain with its DdO system.  The principles of these regulatory bodies was to strictly enforce the production of wines regarding its contents and methods of aging and over all production.  Labelling also is extremely strict as the display of its designations , size of its lettering, etc are a part of this legal adherence. The U.S. has the AVA, American Viticultural Areas, which got its roots from France’s AOC.  Geography such as state where the grapes are grown is carefully monitored with this regulation.

With so many grapes and so many wines that have been produced throughout the world, it is no small wonder that oversight must be enforced at some level.  Wine pricing can also range from cheap table wine to rare vintages and reserves that are produced in specially treated casks and barrels.  In order to classify a wine with such special care and handling as it is plucked from the vine through to its aging in a cask and blended with certain ingredients and varietals comprising its character, regulatory enforcement must come into play.


Perhaps government regulation as with all commodities and products must pay their fair share of taxes and it is these regulatory establishments that have been created to do so.  Additionally, would it be fair to have a basement bootlegger label their wine and market it side by side with a vintage Bordeaux like a Chateau Lafite Rothschild?