or Appellation d’Origine Controlée (Name of Origin Controlled): Agricultural products, wine included, that can only be produced in a specific geographic region using specific ingredients from that region can be awarded an AOC. So, for example, Champagne is an AOC wine, and the designation is printed on the label. If you have the same variety of grapes as those grown in the Champagne region and you vinify them the same way, but you’re not in Champagne, what you’ll have, in the eyes of French law, is a sparkling wine: true Champagne can only be made in Champagne. It’s all about terroir, or the land, and the difference that local conditions make. The AOC designation is meant to protect the integrity of local products as diverse as Roquefort and chickens from Bresse, and when a product has an AOC, it always sports the fact, since it’s a hard-won honor.

Dorie Greenspan