Appellation: The appellation system in wine can be confusing to both enthusiasts and professionals. The production of wine is heavily influenced by the sense of place and environment or terroir.

Over time, as specific regions have become synonymous with certain flavors and styles of winemaking, those identifying factors have been recognized and reinforced by legal decisions and naming conventions. The appellation system is the current codification of these profiles. Appellation systems such as the AOC in France or the AVA system in the United States have set the names and expectations of quality, process or composition into treaty and law that identify the regional origin of the grapes in your wine.

An appellation is a region, large or small, with recognizable characteristics, such as composition of blend or varietal, style of winemaking, terroir (as in climate, soil and sunlight), or regional flavor profile that produces an expected and consistent result in type and flavor of wine. Most commonly, the smaller the appellation the higher the price of grapes or wine from that region and this is often considered to imply corresponding quality as well.

What is confusing for many are the differences between labeling and appellation from the old world of Europe as compared to the rest of the modern wine world. A new world (North America, South America, Australia & New Zealand and elsewhere) wine is primarily labeled to reference the varietal of the grape and the appellation is used to distinguish origin, quality and style. Most often, appellated wine must be composed of at least 85% of the varietal on the label, if not more.

The old world or Europe has a longer tradition of winemaking and sales and the appellation is often the only indicator of type of varietal or blend used. Understanding what some of the more famous appellations encompass and the styles of wine they produce will help you set expectations and understand what you are looking at on the shelves of your local wine shop.

Beaujolais: See Beaujolais article.

Negociants: A Negociant is a wine merchant who gathers the productions of smaller growers or winemakers and sells the combined product under its own name.

Terroir: Terroir refers to the combination of geography, climate, soil and topography of an area that can produce a “sense of place” within wines from differing areas. This sense of place is conveyed via consistent expectation of flavor or aroma in a finished wine. The appellation system in Europe is in many ways based on the this expectation or sense of classic notes expected in wines produced in a specific style from a certain location.
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