What in the blazes are French AOC’s, AOP’s and IGP’s?

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In my quest for quality product, i have often come across various guarantees of origin and authenticity. When i see this kind of thing, it subconsciously increases my confidence level. Still, there are so many of them that i often wonder what purpose they actually serve. Who grants these certifications? What criteria are used to grant them? Do they really guarantee quality?

Let’s go get some answers!



What do AOC, AOP mean?


Historically these guarantees were created to fight fraud. AOC is French, and the AOP is the European equivalent. They certify that these products have been produced through recognized processes and according to strict specifications. AOC and AOP also protect the notion of “terroir” : the geographic origin guaranteed by the AOC or AOP lends the product it is unique characteristics. The idea is that the unique soil composition, sun exposure, humidity and wind of the geographic area means that the same ingredients will produce  a unique taste in that area.


There are some fifty dairy AOP’s essentially for cheeses. But also for cream and butter. Cream and butter? hmm… can such basic products have such differences in taste?

You can find 42 AOC’s for vegetables, fruits, olive oil, walnuts and 364 for wine and spirits too!


What is the PGI ?



The Protected geographic indication is also a Europeen community protection. Although the difference between PGI and PDO was murky at first, i think we can say that there is a difference : while both labels protect know how and a geographic origin, to earn a PGI a product must be able t prove only that a least one phase of production takes place in that geographic area.


What is “label rouge” the red label ?



The label rouge is only recognized in France and it is the grandfather of all product certifications as it was introduced in 1960. It guarantees a higher level of quality for the certified product than that of standard products of the industry. A certified product is guaranteed to have meet a list of strict specifications. These specifications can include for example the number of hens per square meter in the production facility. It regulates the quality of feed and the appropriate growth rate of animals which contribute to tasty food.


What certifications cover organic food ?



Consumer can trust these labels to guarantee them organic and animal friendly products. I have personally studied the organic “rule book” and it is hefty, 94 pages!  

There are detailed descriptions of everything involved in producing organics from feed to medical care to pest control.

And of course and because we are in France, all these regulation are regulated by a public entity the INAO (it’s not a joke.)

To conclude all these regulation will be good for the consumer but i’m looking forward to speaking about that with the producers to get their opinion.

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