French Wine Classifications

French wine is classified into four levels of quality and any given bottle of wine will have one of the following four classifications marked on the label:

  • Vin de Table. Literally translates as 'table wine'. This is very ordinary wine, perhaps to be drunk at the table with a simple meal.

  • Vin de Pays. Officially, a superior form of Vin de Table. As this is still a Vin de Table (although a superior form) it will have both Vin de Table and Vin de Pays on the label.

  • VDQS. The abbreviation for Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (literally 'wine <from a specific area> of superior quality'). Officially better than the previous two classifications but not as good as an AOC.

  • AOC.  The abbreviation for Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée. In theory the highest standard of wine.

The decision of which quality rating a wine is entitled to is determined in large part by the methods of production, on the basis that if certain production standards are met then the quality of the end product is assured (for further discussion, see terroir). The ratings are not based on tasting of the wine itself and omit a number of important variables (the quality of grapes in any given year, the flair of the individual wine maker). Consequently, there is a great deal of variation within the classifications; the best Vin de Table can be better than the worst AOC wine. It is wise to take these four quality ratings as only rough indications.

For more information, click on Wine & French Wine, which will take you to our home page for this topic.

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