Inoa, "Institut National des Appellations d'Origine" is the French government body that regulates their wine appellation system. The INAO recognizes geographical areas that have well known winemaking and growing traditions associated with a particular name and quality.
The four general INAO classifications for wine in France are:
This high quality designation guarantees origin, production methods, and grape varieties that a French wine can attain. Though the requirements may slightly from one region to another, they are the most tightly defined. This law also determines land areas to a point of restricting grape varieties and the amount harvested.
When you look at a bottle of Chateau Saint-Julien, you see that the label says "Appellation d'Origine Saint-Julien Controlée", this means the grapes came from the geographical area the INAO calls "Saint-Julien").
The second-highest classification, "superior quality wine", has strict controls on production and variety of grapes used. The label has a VDQS icon in the lower-left corner, and specifies the type of grape it is made from.
A high class table wine, from a particular region of France and with a specific vintage. The Vin de Pays is controlled mostly for the source of the grapes and the density of vines produced per acre. The region of a Vin de Pays can be very large or quite small.
Nearly 50% of the wine produced in France falls into this category. This is your standard French table wine, and the type you would receive if you ordered a craft at a basic restaurant. Vin de Table can be produced anywhere in the country with no restriction. The quality can range sharply from weak to very good, and price is often not an indication of the quality.
Contributor: WineDefintions Staff Writer