The AOC specifications,
a guarantee of quality and respect
The Côtes du Rhône AOC is governed by a set of specifications established by the decree of 19 November 1937. It is one of the first AOCs created in France.
OK… but what’s the goal behind the fancy jargon?
The specifications serve several purposes:
- To establish the geographical areas for the Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages (included the specific named villages), and the Crus.
- To set out the rules for the management of the vineyards, the grape varieties authorised for use and their percentages, the methods and density of planting, the rules for pruning and trellising and the yields per hectare. They oblige the winegrowers to maintain the vines and the soil in a good state of health.
- To set out the methods of vinification, blending, ageing, packaging, storage and labelling.
- To require the wine producers to declare their harvest (volume of grapes produced per AOC).
- They also seek to highlight the history that connects people to this land and the type of wines produced here.
Right. And how is this enforced?
Verification of compliance with the specifications is carried out by an independent body mandated by the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), which reports to the French Ministry of Agriculture*. The winemakers and négociants are responsible for carrying out internal checks themselves under the responsibility of the Organisme de Défense et de Gestion (defense and management body), more commonly known as the Syndicat de Vignerons (winemakers’ union). This Union carries out 800 audits of winegrowing businesses per year (3,905 hectares were audited in 2020).
For the consumer, this is a guarantee that a wine respects the identity of the area where it is produced, as well as its winegrowing tradition and the commitments made collectively by the AOC. It is a seal of quality that has been earned!
An innovative guarantee seal
It guarantees the quality of the product and combats counterfeiting and identity theft. An EU study shows that counterfeit wines and spirits represent an annual loss of €2.7 billion in the EU, with €235 million of this in France*.
So how does this work?
Each seal is unique and cannot be forged. It has four security levels. By scanning a QR code with their smartphone, consumers can check that the number that appears is identical to the one on the seal. If this is not the case, they are invited to contact the producer, if possible attaching a photo of the bottle (of course, they can also send him/her their compliments on the wine if they so wish!).
Once the wine has been authenticated, the consumer can view the wine’s product information sheet, access the website of the producer, the Côtes du Rhône and the local distributor, and learn more about the AOC’s environmental initiatives…
The platform that manages the seals, created by the Tesa Scribos © company, also allows the producer to geolocate his bottles and thereby control their distribution.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
In the wine sector, CSR applies to all areas of work, from the vineyard to the marketing, covering all the environmental, social and economic factors involved. Complementary to the High Environmental Value (HVE) certification, CSR has a broader scope as it includes fuel and water consumption and the use of effluents as fertiliser or energy.
So how involved are the Côtes du Rhône wineries?
There are a number of individual initiatives from management of dry goods through the use of 100% recycled glass bottles, bio-sourced synthetic corks, plant-based ink for printing labels, etc. Many will prefer sourcing locally, reducing the consumption of stretch film for the palletisation of cases, and optimising storage by improving the working conditions of forklift operators and other staff.
Just to state a few : Maison Sinnae (Laudun), Union Rhonéa (Vacqueyras), Gabriel Meffre (Gigondas) and the “Vignerons Engagés” association all have CSR policies.
CSR helps make tangible measures visible to a wider audience, 80% of whom say that we cannot address environmental issues without having a handle on the economic and social issues.