When it comes to wine and food, a name is not just a name
Switzerland has had AOCs for a while now, but on 14 January 2010, the Swiss federal agriculture office, OFAG, published an official bulletin containing a list of approximately 800 appellations of origin and geographical indications, roughly the equivalent of the French Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). These were voted in in the context of a reciprocal agreement with the EU, and are to be protected and respected throughout the EU.
This effort should help to improve the reputation of Swiss products outside Switzerland. As of 15 March 2010, any person or company can stamp agricultural products produced in the defined geographic locations with the geographic indications and appellations defined in this list with an AOC type seal.
The project is still being finalized, so there may be even more good news on the way.
What’s an AOC?
The concept of AOC, as it is most often referred to, originated in France in the 15th century, but most modern AOCs date from the early 20th century, when the French government passed a law protecting the rigorously defined geographic origin of wines. AOCs were later extended to other products, such as cheese, and other definitions were linked to the geographical indications, such as grape varieties, climate, aging process, methods of production, soil characteristics, etc.
In France, the French national institute for appellations of origin, the INAO, strictly monitors and ensures that the regulations are adhered to. It is illegal to make and label a product with an AOC label if it does not comply with all of the criteria.
A similar system exists in Italy, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or DOC.
Why is it good for Switzerland to have AOCs?
The aim of such systems is to guarantee quality and consistency of products, and it helps customers have a clearer idea of exactly what product they are buying. It should add prestige to many of Switzerland’s often neglected products.
Switzerland has been late in generalizing the process, but started waking up in recent years. In 2003, they managed to get an AOC for Geneva spiny cardoons, in 2004 for Valais pure rye bread, and in 2007 for Fribourg Botzi pears. The list also includes sausages, dried meats and even polenta, even though wines and cheeses are the main emphasis.
OPAGE, the official association for promoting agricultural products in canton Geneva, gives a fairly comprehensive list of Geneva products that have received AOC status over the last year, and this will most surely be updated once the project has been completed.
In Vaud, AOCs include boutefas sausages and Gruyère, Etivaz and Vacherin Mont-d’Or Switzerland cheeses.
You can find more detailed information about Swiss AOC (and other) wines in previous posts: