You may be quite familiar with the fun fact that a Champagne can only be called Champagne if it was produced in the Champagne region of France (just outside of Paris). All else is a mere “sparkling wine” – or Prosecco!

But, how do you know your Bordeaux is even “real”, and really from Bordeaux? Because it says so on the label?

In other words, can you just trust  that a given wine is really from a particular location? Is the label reliable? Or do you have to rely on your expertise in wine tasting to determine whether a Bordeaux…is really from Bordeaux and not in fact a Merlot from California?

Bordeaux wine label


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, and a California Merlot may smell and taste as marvelous as a Bordeaux, but us consumers need some reassurance that what we bought (and paid for, ahem) is in fact what the label claims. And believe it or not, but it is not until relatively recently that a wine buyer did not only take it on faith that a wine was not in fact, an impostor.

A (really) brief history of wine appellations

It wasn’t until 1716 that Cosimo III de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, decreed that wines could not make false claims to being from Chianti, Pomino or Carmignano. Four decades later, in 1756, faced with increasing instances of wine fraud, the Portuguese prime minister officially delimited the vineyards of Douro as the exclusive source for Port grapes.

After France was hit by a severe vine pest in the late 19th century, wine adulteration and fraud ran rampant there as well. In response, Baron le Roy, Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s most influential producer, implemented geographical delimitation in addition to requirements for vine varieties, vine training and pruning in the  which resulted in the Côtes du Rhône appellation of origin in 1937. In 1935 these guidelines became the basis for France’s Appellation Contrôlée system, which in turn became the model for controlled appellations all over the world.

Appellations are a legal protection for the consumer

Nowadays, an appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown as well as the laws and regulations that dictate how that particular wine was made. Appellations are dependent on the country in which the wine was produced.

So you can rest assured – you have a legal protection that a Bordeaux is indeed from Bordeaux. Now, whether your palate is able to make that distinction is a whole different discussion 🙂