Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) is the French government’s system of organizing agricultural products such as wine, spirits, cheese and butter. Meaning "controlled designation of origin,” the AOC system has strict rules that vary within each region. These rules determine most every aspect of wine production, such as grape varieties, harvest dates, blends, aging and minimum alcohol level.
There are over 300 wine regions entitled to mark their labels with the AOC designation, including the wines of the Centre-Loire. All seven of the regions within the Centre-Loire have been awarded with the AOC distinction, with Sancerre and Quincy (1936) and Reuilly, Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly sur Loire (1937) being among the first. Menetou Salon received its AOC distinction in 1959, while Coteaux du Giennois was awarded in 1998 and Chateaumeillant in 2010.
Known for its exceptional Sauvignon Blanc wines, Sancerre is found in some of the world’s best restaurants and praised by many of the top wine experts. Although Sancerre is most famous for its white wine, the appellation also produces high quality red and rosé using Pinot Noir grapes.
White wines are the specialty of Pouilly. Pouilly-Fumé wines are made exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc, while Pouilly-sur-Loire only uses Chasselas grapes. These dry crisp wines are best known for their gunflint smoky aroma.
The largest segment of Menetou-Salon wine is white, but the appellation also produces red and rosé wines.
Southwest of Sancerre, Menetou Salon sits in the Cher department and covers 188 hectares (465 acres). The appellation extends into 10 villages: Menetou-Salon, Aubinges, Morogues, Parassy, Pigny, Quantilly, Saint-Céols, Soulangis, Vignoux-sous-les-Aix and Humbligny. The sedimentary limestone soil in this appellation dates to the upper Jurassic period.
As the second appellation created in France and the first in the Loire Valley, Quincy is known for its white wines. Made only using Sauvignon Blanc grapes, the wine is typically crisp and dry. Quincy was the first from the Centre-Loire to obtain AOC status in August 1936.
Dry, crisp Sauvignon Blanc is the trademark of Reuilly. Though the appellation also grows Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, creating fruity red and dry rosé wines. Southeast of Bourges, Reuilly covers over 243 hectares (600 acres) from the banks of the Arnon River to the Cher River.
The hallmarks of Coteaux du Giennois are light-bodied, fruity and crisp, dry white wines. However, dry rosé is also produced on the appellation’s 196 hectares (484 acres). Northeast of Sancerre, on the banks of the Loire River, Coteaux du Giennois is in the departments of Nièvre and Loiret.
Châteaumeillant is an appellation with thousands of years of grape growing history that specializes in rosé wine known as vin gris, as well as red wines made from Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes.