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wine appellation

What Is a Wine Appellation?

People make wine in over seventy countries, and each wine-producing country has dozens—if not hundreds—of wine regions, each with unique terroir and wine specialties. That’s the beauty of it: drinking wine is like traveling without leaving the comfort of your home.

The thing is, not all wine regions are equally famous or prestigious. Therefore, not all wine is created equal. Here’s where wine appellations come in. They identify wine for its provenance, which makes all the difference in valuing the wine. Here’s what you need to know about wine appellations and how to use them to your advantage when buying or selling wines for your collection.

Why Are Wine Appellations Important?

Wine appellations are production laws and quality standards that producers must follow to label their products with a particular origin. You’ve seen appellations before when buying Iberico ham, Florida oranges, or tequila since people protect all types of agricultural products with appellations. However, the world of wine has one of the most complicated appellation systems.

Appellations first appeared when wine producers in renowned regions needed to protect their wine from counterfeits. In the early 1900s, a bottle of Bordeaux was likely filled with wine from Algeria. Appellations prevented producers from bottling their wine like wine from other regions and ensured that the wine was of a certain quality.

Remember: Some appellations are regional and cover large extensions. Other appellations apply to small single vineyards or estates.

For appellations to work, they had to become international agreements—and most did. For example, producers in France can’t label their wines as Napa Cab. However, the system isn’t perfect. Some Californian sparkling wine producers mischievously label their bottles of fizz as if they were Champagne rather than Prosecco.

How Do Wine Appellations Differ Internationally? 

Appellations of all sizes come with a manual, which is an extensive set of rules describing the protected product. Some even establish laws for every step of the wine’s production.

France has some of the strictest appellations worldwide. The country’s appellations tell winemakers what grapes to grow, how to grow them, and when to pick them. They also control what happens in the winery, including the wine’s minimum alcohol levels and residual sugar. Most European countries have similar laws, especially since the unification of the European Union.

Other countries, mainly in the “new world,” have looser appellation laws. Producers in the United States must only ensure that the wine is made (mostly) with grapes from any given region to be able to label it under that appellation. Production, alcohol levels, and sweetness are rarely regulated.

Enjoy Wines from Different Appellations

Appellations aren’t the only thing that matters. Sometimes, the producer’s reputation is more important than the appellation itself. Historically, some of the most famous wines have rejected all forms of restrictions and crafted wines outside the appellation system, like the Italian Super Tuscans or the Garagiste wines from Bordeaux. Knowing your appellations can help you pick the right wine for the occasion. Famous appellations guarantee high quality, but lesser-known appellations are often of great value, too.

Another important factor in wine enjoyment is choosing the right glassware for every bottle. Grassl Glass offers a curated selection of wine glasses to bring out the best in distinct wine styles. A complete glassware set is all you need to explore the world of wine’s diversity and its endless appellations.

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