In France we like to know what we eat or drink, I know this is a curious concept but so far it worked pretty well, for foreigners one of the first label they hear about it is AOP (protected) and AOC (controlled) which stands for PDO (Protected designation of Origin)
Its purpose is to guarantee the consumer a product of quality and more importantly of consistency, you can find these labels for cheese, meat, wines..; It’s also meant to be universal and is already European
How to be labelled ?
Requirements are stricts but will vary accordingly to the type of product Cheese C (Cheese, cream and butter), Meat M and Wines W (Wines and Spirits)
- No GMOs C M W
- Free range cattle C M
- Organic food C M
- No Antibiotics C M
- No growth hormones C M
- Set shape and/or content C
- Harvested on the property W
- 5 years of consistent quality record W
- Bottled on the property W
- +/-0.5% alcohol variation W
- No outside grape W
- No changes in the registered composition W
With all these requirements met you know you will enjoy healthy and consistent products.
AOC and AOP have the purpose of protecting the product from counterfeiting especially in Cheese such as Parmigiana or Blue Cheese and Comté. 51 French cheese are currently protected with AOP, Camembert failed to do so in the early years of the label this is why you can now find Camembert from Hokkaido or from Wisconsin, to get a late protection Camembert renamed itself Camembert de Normandie and got the AOP label.
It also opens the doors to large retailers especially for wines from young makers in a country with 80000 wine producers this means a lot, retailers look for consistency, they want to sell, they would never take the risk that the “caviste” (local wine retail) does by offering random producers (that is also the reason why cavist are still very popular in France), AOP will guarantee the taste of a wine throughout the years, so if you enjoyed a Chablis AOP from a domain and try it again 10 years later you will find the same qualities again.
In spite of the sales offering by large retailers many cheese makers and wine makers just won’t try to get an AOP because it’s a golden cage, sure you will enjoy fame and sales but at the same time you lose control on your own product if you want to change the shape of your cheese, add a seasonal ingredient (such as truffle for christmas), you can not use the same name as the one given to the AOP cheese, the best exemple is Brillat Savarin and fantastic triple cream cheese, if wish to add truffle to it, it then becomes Creamy Burgundy cheese with truffles.
Typically famous wine houses (like Bordeaux “Chateaux”) don’t need the AOP for their fame is already international and they want complete control and possibility of changing their wines according to weather and seasons, giving them a unique flavour thought after.
Some other smaller producers can not be bothered or don’t really care that they are copied on the other side of the world for their entire production is already dispatched through the locality, the region or the country.