Understanding Appellations – Proof of Origin

Of course, anyone can print a label that says that their wine comes from Bordeaux or Napa Valley, but that doesn’t mean that it does. In many nations, there is a legal status called an “appellation” that guarantees the origin of the grapes in your wines.

The appellation on a wine denotes where the grapes were grown, how it was processed, and much more. Depending on the location, the grape yields, varieties, and even final quality factors, may all be governed by the appellation.

On most bottles, you will see a red and white label that is around the neck or over the cork. This is an official seal of either the national government or the regional authority.

Here is a list of a few of the appellations that one might find on wine store shelves:


There are dozens and dozens of official appellations in France, with nearly every region laying claim to their grapes and wines. From Aloxe-Corton to Margaux to Vouvray, every grape, every region, many cities, and even specific vineyards are protected with official appellations.

It’s interesting to note that the governmentally controlled appellation system in France didn’t come into being until the 1930’s. In fact, it was only in the Treaty of Versailles (1919) that German vintners were forced to stop using the name Champagne on their sparkling wines.


The Spanish have significantly less appellations than the French do, but they still closely protect the origins of their wines. Each region has an appellation that protects their wines from counterfeits. They also have several wine names that are protected, such as Costa de Cantabria and Ibiza.


English and Welsh wines might not be the world’s most appreciated, but there is an appellation for English and Welsh wines. In the case of English wines, their legal protection applies whether they actually say, “Wine of England” or “English Wine.” They can also use regional and city substitutes, such as Sussex, Isle of Wight, and Yorkshire.


One of the world’s most important wine producers, Italy has many appellations that protect both the region and also specific grape varieties. Wines such as Asti Spumante and Soave are associated with the grapes that they are made from. Nearly every region of Italy, including some very tiny villages, are protected by name in the Italian appellation system.

Other nations also have appellation systems:

  • Argentina

  • Australia

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Canada

  • Chile

  • Cyprus

  • Czech Republic

  • Georgia

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • Luxembourg

  • Malta

  • New Zealand

  • Portugal

  • Romania

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • South Africa

  • The Netherlands

  • United States of America

The purpose of appellations is to assure consumers that the wine that they purchased is really from the place that the label says. The vintners in those areas have worked very hard for, in many cases, centuries. The appellations created by the nations around the world protect that hard work and guarantee that there is really great wine in the bottle.

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