French wine laws are now ridiculous expansive. Most punters who pick up a bottle of French wine at a shop will look at the whether the Chateau on the label looks nice and decide on that rather than get tangled in the mire of labeling terms jumbled all over the shop. But there is a distinct reason they’re there, and it appears that it’s the cheesemakers of Franche-Comté we have to thank!
Why Have Them In The First Place?
In France these protections are called Appelation D’Origine Contrôlées, or AOCs. They’re a set of rules laid down by a mix of the government and local bodies to do two things. Firstly make sure that as a punter, you know you’re getting the quality you’re paying for. Secondly, as a producer, you know no-one else can rip-off your product and make a cheaper, shitty version. We’ve got them in the UK for things like Melton Mowbray pork pies and Stilton cheese.
So Where Do The Cheesemakers Come In?
Well, the story goes that in the first bit of the 20th century the better wine producers in Jura were getting a bit fed up with the amount of crap wine being produced. They took a look at how the cheesemakers of Comté where regulated and thought “hmmm, not a bad idea that!” So in 1936 France’s first wine AOC was born in Jura, around the town of Arbois…imaginatively called Arbois AOC.
NB: Since writing the original post I’ve been reliably informed that this isn’t strictly true, which is a huge shame as I thought it was a great story…so I’m leaving it in! The Wines Of Jura official press pack obviously has the same mindset 🙂
Where Does That Leave Us?
Well 80 years on, it’s leaves us punters with a shelf full of wine that we know has been well made if it’s got the sticker on it. The lure of making crap wine went pretty quick, and now the vineyards of the Jura are just 10% of the area they were 100 years ago. You make good stuff, or you don’t bother. Can’t say fairer than that, can you?
So you’re right, I did say blessed are the cheesemakers. Not sure about extending that to any manufacturers of dairy products though…